Wilton's Music Hall, London, Thursday, September 12
As the rumbles of set opener ‘Suzanne & I’ boom around the walls of Wilton’s, the coloured stage lights flash onto a backdrop showing a barren, brooding landscape. London singer Anna Calvi is onstage, conjuring up her own storm, and turning the picturesque venue into a Wuthering Heights scene on the moors.
Tonight’s show is more like immersive theatre than a gig. From the venue to the visuals to the singer herself – a diminutive siren in red lipstick and Marcel waves – the world Calvi creates is all-consuming. ‘The Devil’ is a disarmingly quiet moment, with Calvi softly cooing about her satanic fate atop guitar lines contorted to sound like a harp. ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ follows and is so sweepingly cinematic it’s crying out to soundtrack a particularly lovelorn Hollywood scene. And in true theatrical tradition, her audience is as respectful as they come: silent while Calvi sings, rapturous and adoring as each track ends. When she delves into first album tracks ‘Blackout’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ with their topics of desire and darkness, the 32-year-old assumes the role of narrator, bringing her tales to life armed only with some ridiculous guitar skills and a vocal that sounds like it should be coming from someone at least four times her size.
But with new album ‘One Breath’ mere weeks away from release, Calvi’s emphasis is not on telling other people’s stories, but her own. Debuting new tracks that deal with the singer’s problems with depression, there’s something cathartic about tonight, a sense of demons being exorcised. Delicate album track ‘Piece By Piece’ gets a bolshier reinvention, while ‘Sing To Me’ is haunting and fragile. ‘Carry Me Over’ is a song of self-reflection (“It’s my body that I trust / Deeper than my voice“), and ‘Bleed Into Me’ builds into a grandiose finale. Calvi’s demeanour tonight is more frail, defiant and dramatic then ever. She finishes with her customary cover of Edith Piaf’s ‘Jezebel’ and looks overwhelmed by the incessant clapping and cheering coming back at her. She shouldn’t be so surprised. Tonight, Calvi is an undisputed star.