Annie Clark can do a bunch of things really well. The Grammy-winning art-rock superstar better known as St. Vincent can write airtight songs with expressive lyrics, vivid melodies and indelible hooks. She can make you feel all the complex feelings, from nostalgic wistfulness (“Prince Johnny”) to steely-yet-playful resolve (“Pay Your Way in Pain”). She can make movies; she co-wrote (with Carrie Brownstein) and stars in 2020’s The Nowhere Inn.

But above all else, St. Vincent can perform. Her live show is blindingly awesome. She can sing, play guitar and engage the audience with such ability, confidence and charm, you almost question whether what you’re seeing is real. And the only thing better than one night of St. Vincent performing in Las Vegas—which she’ll do at the Pearl on October 1—is the idea of her performing shows here several weekends a year, you feel me? Watch now as this publication sneakily tries to introduce Annie Clark to the idea of a “St. Vegas” residency. Cross fingers.

We’ve only got a few minutes to chat, so let’s just talk performance. Your first Vegas show was at the Cosmopolitan in April 2015, outdoors by the pool. That was weird. Totally.

You politely requested that the crowd not film the show with its phones, and it worked. When did you first realize that cell phones were taking over concertgoing? You’re like, “I’m having an experience, but I’m also reaching to record the experience and then that’s changing the way that I’m filtering the experience.” I certainly noticed it in myself first, and I [didn’t think] it was making my experience better. … I’m certainly not anti-technology, but make no mistake, these things are shaping us. They’re shaping us way more than we’re shaping them, you know?

Your next two Vegas performances were both at festivals (Life Is Beautiful, 2018 and 2021). I’d wager that most people who’ve seen you perform have seen you at festivals. Do you enjoy playing them? It really depends. Yes, I do enjoy festivals just for the simple fact that you get to see your friends who are on tour. I was at Glastonbury, and I got to play with [British punk band] Idles, and I love that band. We finally got to meet in person and, like, hang. I like festivals for that kind of camaraderie, the social aspects. But then—and again, this isn’t a critique—I genuinely don’t know how much people are going to festivals for discovery anymore. I don’t really know. I mean, do you?

I don’t know, either. I hope they are. I would agree. I mean, you get all that music, a lot of bang for your buck.

I’m one of those artists who has to be seen live to be contextualized. That’s how I came up, in station wagons and then minivans and then 12-passengers and then tour buses. I came up playing—more or less a road dog, a grizzled road dog. [Performing] is part of my vision, my whole expression. A lot of times, someone might be lukewarm on a record, and then they see it live and go “Oh, I get it.” Better that than someone loving a record, seeing it performed live and going, “Oh, this sucks.” (Laughs)

I think the live thing is, like, f*cking Malcolm Gladwell sh*t. You put in your 10,000 hours. It’s a funny skill that you can only find, and get better at, by doing it in front of people. I guess it’s kind of like sex, right?

I’m not sure I’d want those audience notes. But that’s why it’s powerful and vulnerable and exciting—because it’s high-risk, high-reward. You could do this and sing flat, or just choke—but the end of the day you’re going to do that in front of people and grow as a result, whether it’s by getting closer to your own shame or by some miracle of success.

Who has inspired you, strictly as a performer? There’s Iggy Pop; I definitely have explored [that] very primal, masochistic side. But also, people like Prince or Bowie, who you get the sense know every move they make; they know exactly how it looks from every single angle, and they refine it to absolute perfection. … [I like] people who really give it up. People who really lose themselves in performance and are not afraid to be scary or confrontational.

How do you get to that place when you perform? I look at it like I’m an athlete, and I train on the road. I work out and I practice. It sounds boring, but I really like being physically challenged, and the idea of pushing toward my limit. … You could be tired, you could be sick, you could be hung over, but once you’re onstage, it all fades away. But you’ve got to gauge your own [limits]. The second that I’m like, “Man, I got a show tonight, but I’m so fried”—that’s the time to get off the road. But every time I go on stage, I’m f*cking psyched to be there.

Lastly, and I ask this out of pure selfishness: Would you ever consider playing a Vegas residency? Um, sure! I kinda can’t imagine crushing a Vegas residency in terms of attendance, but maybe there’s a lot of fans I don’t know about.

We’re out here. You’ll see us at the Pearl. I hope, I hope. I mean, I just discovered gambling. I didn’t understand Vegas, because I never really spent any time there, and then I was like, “OK, I get it.” You slip into the Vegas mentality for 24 to 48 hours, and you just ride that ride. 

ST. VINCENT With Ali Macofsky October 1, 8 p.m., $41-$92. Pearl Theater, 702-944-3200.

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