Even more striking than the candle-lit smokey imagery of the Anna Calvi stage set-up is the sound that erupts from both her voice and her guitar.
On Saturday night, Anna Calvi’s latest tour – in support of her second record, ‘One Breath’ – reached the capital. Playing the grand, ornate and slightly antiquated Troxy in East London, the location was a perfect backdrop for an explosive evening of restraint and wild abandon.
Opening with ‘Suzanne and I’, the first thing that becomes apparent is the tight primal thump offered by her backing band. As matters unfold over the course of the next hour and a half, they will prove themselves to be something of a versatile wonder; adept at the most nimble of shifts and shakes as directed by Calvi herself.
Standout moments include a beautiful ‘Sing To Me’, a punchy ‘Blackout’ and a surprising solo cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Fire’. Her voiceshowsitself to be a versatile instrument that is equally capable of soaring light harmonies as well as her trademark bellowing power. Her guitar playing too is a revelation. The reverb heavy tone conjures up gravitas, ashushed moments of tranquillity vie with coruscating screeches for attention.
It is all transfixing, bewitching and at times, mesmerising.
Okay, there may be some moments where wailing harmonics take precedence, when a lyric or two would have been an ideal, and more satisfying, substitute. But there are many more transcendental incidents of earth-shaking beauty. Her new songs offer expansion and interesting progressions. Whilst there may not be an immediate toe-tapper in the ‘Desire’ vein, these songs are more sophisticated and broaden Calvi’s musical palette, teasing (at times) a Tom Waits circa ‘Rain Dogs’ off-kilter tinkle.
Calvi closes with her fierce rendition of ‘Jezebel’ and, with its abrupt stop/start rhythms, she exits the stage to thunderous applause and demands of a further, second, encore.
It was an honour to be in her presence. She is undoubtedly here for the long haul. She is what recordlabels might have traditionallyreferredto as a ‘career artist’. Strangely, her unique talent fills a Jeff Buckley-shaped hole. It’ll be interesting to see where she goes next.
For those unfamiliar, sample a bit of Anna Calvi here: