Anna Calvi has exploded onto the UK music scene over the last few years. She has seen her work nominated for the Mercury Music Awards and the Brit Awards in 2011 and 2012. Her self-titled debut album featured collaboration from Brian Eno and Dave Okumo from The Invisible, and was produced by renowned producer Rob Ellis. She had previously worked with the recent folk revival’s golden boy Johnny Flynn, and has played support to major acts Interpol and Grinderman.
Certainly on record Calvi’s early career has seen some bustling activity. Boasting a robust guitar sound and overwhelming vocal prowess, Calvi’s music has garnered a flurry of attention, being compared to acts as broad as Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey and Ennio Morricone.
So far so good, really. So the live show seemed like something of a no-brainer. Calvi was guaranteed to impress it seemed.
The night started slowly. The venue packed to watch the support act, Halloween, Alaska, which was a little on the draining side. Poor sound did little to help the band from being drowned out by the murmer of an eager but unsure crowd. A lukewarm response was all the Minnesota band could muster from the skeptical onlookers, and the band left the stage without much fuss. Calvi appeared shortly after 10, and the room darkened to welcome the headline act.
Opening with the unaccompanied guitar piece Rider to the Sea and moving into No More Words as the tracks play on Calvi’s album, the performance started without much bang. There was a tired atmosphere, and an emptiness to the sound of the three-piece attempting to recreate the vast landscapes of sound found on the album.
As the tracks continued however, the influence from the bold and domineering Calvi began to take hold. Her petit meanderings on the microphone between songs helped to endear her to the audience. The band settled into the show and confidence grew as the crowd embraced the aural experience. Calvi’s vocals soared on powerful songs Desire and Blackout, and before long the atmosphere was overpowering. As the show continued the singer seemed to darken on stage and become attuned to the melody of her own voice, and excited by her meaty guitar licks and solos.
Calvi’s stage presence provided a remarkable show. She embraced her hard-crusted rock-chick persona and juxtaposed it with delicate and minimal musings between songs. Her movement was slick, and her playing and singing were both impeccable. She became a visual spectacle and seemed to grow as the gig progressed into a monumental force on-stage.
By end of the show the often cynical Vicar Street audience had turned from an almost stale reception to complete admiration. Calvi blasted out the tunes one after another with a roaring intensity. The three-piece were now constructing orchestral sounds from their minimalist arrangement. The Devil was the height of the performance, as the songstress’ vocals pierced the room and felt like they were lifting the crowd from their standing position into a sonorous hell-scape, deep and deliberate and completely overwhelming.
The show was a fine example of an artist winning an audience over, and underlined the significance of Anna Calvi as one of the UK’s top emerging music acts.
My personal reaction to the gig was to find myself somewhat starstruck. Calvi’s presence was thought-provoking. Her determined countenance was weighty and the values of the songs underlined the majesty of the performance. It is rare to see an act that is so overwhelming, but Anna Calvi brought an entire audience to life that night, and it was an unmissable show.