Yes, the woman known offstage as Annie Clark is the sort of songwriter who’s inspired by dead poets (like, um, Edna St. Vincent Millay) and subtitled films. But her latest album, “Strange Mercy,” cuts the preciousness with a newly stark and assertive sound. Onstage, she and a three-piece band — two keyboardists and a drummer — pushed this noisy style even further. The music under St. Vincent’s reverb-enhanced soprano thumped and clattered, punctuated by guitar heroics that ranged from math-rock fills (notably during the opening “Surgeon”) to swells of feedback.
Sometimes St. Vincent seemed a little too pleased with herself, or unaware that one of her gambits — notably the wannabe-Chinese hook of “Year of the Tiger” — was irredeemably corny. But her singing was mesmerizing and her guitar-slinging versatile, two qualities that gave undeniable power to her songs. Even ones titled “Dilettante,” “Actor Out of Work” or “Chloe in the Afternoon.”
Setting the tone for St. Vincent’s appearance, opener Cate Le Bon accompanied her folk-rock tunes with raucous electric guitar, sometimes more raucous than she intended. Technical problems aside, the Welsh singer’s material was more conventional than the headliner’s, but the best of it was also warmer and more engaging.