St. Vincent pledges ‘permission to go crazy’ as ’70s-inspired tour hits Minneapolis

As if reinventing her sound from album to album weren’t challenging enough, St. Vincent‘s knack for changing her look for every tour comes with its own unique complications.

Case in point: She’s gone from wearing rigid, patent-leather bodysuits and thigh-high boots on her last tour to looser-fitting, ’70s-style attire — khaki trench coat, slip dresses, billowy blouses — to reflect the mid-’70s slum-glam aesthetic underlying her funky flashback of a new album, “Daddy’s Home.”

Turns out that the ever-changing and innovative rock experimenter doubly known as Annie Clark still had to make some wardrobe adjustments before hitting the road again.

“I made the mistake of wearing a corduroy suit on stage in New Orleans in June,” she said with a playful groan.

“For the most part, though, Gucci is dressing me, and they sort of know what they’re doing.”

Talking by phone from Los Angeles last month ahead of Tuesday’s concert at the Armory in Minneapolis, Clark was discernibly eager about hitting the road again under any guise.

“I’m excited to give people permission to go crazy, permission to open the release valve on all of the madness that we’ve gone through over the past year or so,” she said.

“That’s part of the show: an invitation to just lose yourself in a freak-show dance party. Other parts of the show are confrontational and scary, and others are transcendent psychedelia. I’ve always believed a show should be a show, and especially now.”

Clark did not downplay the lingering COVID concerns for touring artists and concertgoers alike.

While the Armory has no set COVID policy, she is requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results for admission to Tuesday’s show.

“It’s a daily, hourly discussion,” she said of the precautions. “Obviously, I’m going to do everything in my power to help the health of my team, my crew and my fans.”

Not only are these her first tour dates since the pandemic, it’s her first full tour in years with a real band.

Most of the concerts she played for her electro-pulsating 2017 album “Masseduction” were performed solo with prerecorded backing tracks — an interesting change-up, but it left her rather eager to bring along a full-scale band this time around.

“The spirit of ‘Masseduction’ was that sort of plasticity, highly rigid power play,” she said. “This is way more fluid and free and much more about great musicians playing together. The visual side will be there, too, but it’s a lot more about creating music together.”

“Daddy’s Home” offers a cross-pattern of mid-1970s influences, ranging from the pre-disco sounds of psychedelic R&B groovers like Funkadelic and Rotary Connection (with the omnipresent David Bowie thrown in) to the look of actresses such as Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’ movies or the late transgender pioneer Candy Darling in Andy Warhol films.

The album’s closing track is named for Darling, but “in a way, she’s visiting me on every song on the record,” Clark said. “In that last song, I’m kind of thanking her for being the guardian angel over this album, and waving her goodbye as she takes the last train back home to heaven.

“There are a lot of women of that era I was inspired by,” she added. “I like the grittiness. I like the glamour that has dirt under the fingernails.”

As for the musical influences, Clark said those came largely from her real-life father: “There are aspects of me trying to understand my own transformation into ‘daddy’ using the language from the ’70s that he introduced me to,” she said.

Before she wrote the album, Clark’s father was released from prison after a decade on stock-fraud charges. The title track, in particular, refers to the situation: “I sign autographs in the visitation room / Waiting for you the last time / Inmate 502.”

Clark had been open to discussing his incarceration, but then shortly before the album’s release the singer’s publicist reportedly tried to get an interview killed because it was too “aggressive” with jail-related questions.

Now, with hindsight, she explained why she is or isn’t eager to discuss different facets of her father’s story.

“My feelings on the U.S. incarceration system is that it has its roots in slavery and it disproportionately affects people of color in a deeply unjust way,” she said. “That said, that really has nothing to do with my album. And my father’s incarceration really is no indicator of the injustices to Black and brown people by the prison system.

“This album isn’t about my father’s incarceration,” she continued. “That’s a footnote, an entry point into the sardonic title ‘Daddy’s Home,’ a reference in which I’m actually ‘Daddy.’ Anything that takes the focus away from the music itself is kind of a bummer to me.”

Here’s more of what Clark had to say about her new music, and a certain musician to whom she paid tribute at last year’s Grammy Awards.

On the new song “The Melting of the Sun,” which references Joni Mitchell, Marilyn Monroe and Tori Amos: “I’m saying thanks to those women for the great art they made. That was the main thing. Secondarily, I wanted to acknowledge the [sexism] that they went through and thanking them for the sacrifices they made to make my life easier to be the artist that I am. I hope that whatever I do in my life makes it easier for the next generation of artists.”

On incorporating so many visual elements into her live shows without losing her focus on the music itself: “I make sure all of it is nailed down in rehearsals before we get in front of a crowd. The last thing I want to be doing is playing a show wondering if it sounds OK or looks OK. That work is done before I get on stage.

“I still believe a show should be a show. Especially now. Times are tough, people are paying good money to come to a show, taking the time, getting a babysitter. I take pride in making sure they’re getting a high-quality experience. How they interpret it, how it touches them emotionally is different for everyone, but I make sure the vision is fine-tuned and complete on my end.”

On the upcoming mockumentary about her, “The Nowhere Inn,” directed by and co-starring Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and “Portlandia” fame: “It grew out of conversations Carrie and I have been having for years. We’ve both grappled with identity in our work forever. I didn’t just want to spread propaganda about what has endeared me to some people. The purpose was to explore what happens to people when they live within their own mythology. It’s as much a cautionary tale [she laughed] as it is a buddy comedy.”

And about her one and only near-meeting with Prince: “I was told right before I was going on stage in New York that Prince was coming. And I freaked, of course. And during one of the first few songs, I looked up and saw this crow’s nest kind of perch, and I looked up after one of my solos and just saw sunglasses, and it was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ But I found out he did stay for the whole show until the encore, which I was told was rare. So I’ll take that.”

St. Vincent

With: Ali Macofsky. When: 8 p.m. Tue. Where: The Armory, 500 S. 6th St., Mpls. Tickets: $45, ticketmaster.com

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