February 4, 2011
Live Review: Anna Calvi
Hoxton Hall, London Thursday, January 27
Of all the people currently making waves in this year’s buzz picks, Anna Calvi is surely the one that stands out. She’s unlikely to ever fully cross into the mainstream and do a Kings Of Leon (unlike Mona, who are clearly trying desperately with every whiskey-soaked fibre of their Southern souls to do exactly that).
Live and stripped down, this newcomer’s dark-hearted lullabies are even more beguiling.
Too dark for the casual listener but too polished for the passing hipster, Calvi’s is a sound that ticks almost precisely no boxes in terms of commercialism or rough-hewn credibility. That the diminutive figure clad in scarlet who greets us tonight has, however, entirely bypassed all of these points and blazeda path straight to the top of the hype machine is by merit of sheer, unnerving talent alone.
From the opening, chilling guitar instrumental, every rave review is justified. We’re more than happy to add another to the collection. The singer makes for a terrifyingly entrancing prospect; backed only by a drummer and multi-instrumentalist, Calvi’s impassioned howls and aggressive fretwork are almost unholy in their sultry menace.
This is a woman who would lure you out to sea and watch you drown. With the production stripped away and the singer able to revel in the dim spotlights, the likes of ‘No More Words’ are more darkly seductive than even their recorded counterparts would suggest.
‘Blackout’ kicks into the kind of theatrical chorus that’s built for soundtracking moments of righteous escapism, ‘Suzanne And I’ is like Esben And The Witch fronted by PJ Harvey (ie. black-heartedly brilliant) and by the time we reach the soaring crescendo of ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ it’s as though all our conscious thought has been replaced by one transcendent state of hypnotic, brooding bliss.
The crowd tonight are an unlikely bunch – at least half are over 40 – but that in itself speaks volumes. Yes, Anna Calvi may have found herself suddenly thrust into the limelight but to label her merely a buzz act would be a startling oversight. When you’re this good, you see, normal rules need not apply.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday