Claire Boucher is not a pop star — and with a little luck, she won’t be remembered as one. Sure, she’s modern-day culmination of many of her diva influences — be it Mariah Carey, Prince, or Beyoncé — and she creates bubbly, dance floor-ready numbers (albeit with dark twists). But as Art Angels — the fourth album under Boucher’s producer-performer-director Grimes moniker — dropped on November 6 with acclaim from critics and fans alike, the notion of her being something more pioneering, something more unique, than a linear progression in the pop landscape is becoming more evident with each passing day and Art Angels spin. In short, Boucher’s one of a kind, and her fans love her for it.
As many Grimes fans know by now, Boucher scrapped the album that would have taken Art Angels‘ place in favor of what we have now. It’s important to remember this, because Art Angels is Boucher’s most realized album yet, and after showing glimpses of grandiose ideas on 2012’s Visions, Boucher continues to step into the spotlight on her own terms with an accessible and offbeat record. That combo — originality and acclaim — doesn’t come around too often in pop/dance music, and Boucher herself didn’t even seem to expect such a warm response to her long-awaited LP. “Thank u everyone for being so nice I’m crying right now cuz I thought everyone was gonna hate it,” she tweeted upon Angels’ release night. “It’s unreal.”
So on Monday evening at Terminal 5, the first city show on her Rhinestone Cowgirls tour before another sold-out stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday night, Boucher seemed to be operating on the momentum that her career is currently bringing her, moving to the music as giddily as the sold-out crowd. It’s impressive she was, considering that she cancelled her last two shows in D.C. and Philadelphia due to the flu, and was also donning a protective boot on her right foot. Down, but not out, Boucher was running on adrenaline from the first number on and never seemed hampered by her ailments, literally twirling on her bad leg.
When she took the stage (along with a pair of ceaseless, synchronized dancers), Boucher cavorted through Visions hits “Genesis” and “Oblivion,” as well as a peppering of deeper cuts “Circumambient” and “Symphonia IX (My Wait is U)” off her 2012 LP. Boucher also welcomed Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes onstage for the Art Angels banger “SCREAM” to perform her rapid-fire rapping verses live to a receptive crowd. “Go” and “REALiTi” nearly brought the house down, with peppy Angels number “Kill v. Maim” (Boucher’s personal favorite, she told the crowd) rounding out the encore. A set of less than a dozen songs nonetheless felt like a well-needed sugar rush at the end of the night.
Boucher, ever the multitasker, spent the majority of the performance moving back and forth from her synths at centerstage to the edge of the crowd – an oddly fitting display for the music she’s been producing and performing herself. She was also playing to a passionate audience: Multiple instances of “Grimes, I love you so fucking much!” could be heard from the jam-packed house. That may make for pretty typical gig banter, but it isn’t heard too often with such earnestness.
It’s rare to see an artist blast off into the mainstream limelight at the right time/right place, and both audience and performer seemed to be feeding off of that energy last night. It wasn’t too long ago that Grimes was opening shows here in the city, and to now see the sold-out crowds for herself, without losing that idiosyncratic spark or vision that’s fueled her whole career up to this point, is something special, if not a bit unreal.