Captivating, dramatic and deeply unique live performance from Anna Calvi in the perfect setting.
A live Anna Calvi show is an anticipated event and one that has been much written about. Tonight’s show brings an added sense of the theatrical due to its location of Hove’s impressive All Saints’ Church. With colourful vaunted ceilings towering dramatically over a temporary structure stage, that dusty church vibe and an atmospheric DJ soundtrack provided by Our Girl creating the perfect setting for the show.
Half expecting a sermon, the crowd stand motionless in the dark awaiting the arrival of Anna Calvi. Stepping solo onto the stage, Calvi
kicks off proceedings with an instrumental of storming, piercing guitar licks that echo around the open space and force mouths agog. Joining her on the stage her two-piece band kick in and launch into the set. The songs are precise, segueing from one to the next with a well-rehearsed freedom. Calvi’s voice is operatic and deeply unique, ranging from a rich baritone that reverberates like Edith Piaf, to a high falsetto that screams like her searing guitar. Posturing throughout, she captures the audience instantly and plays with them throughout the show, staring down into them like an actor on a stage, never once breaking scene.
Often Calvi trips off into her own world and beckons the willing audience to follow. Like Bowie in the Labyrinth, she is the master of the world she’s created and conducts the performance meticulously. Writhing on the floor one minute, strutting along a runway to a lone mic the next. Dressed in red and lit similarly, some escaped devil in the midst of this holy setting, toying with us and spreading her mischief like Loki or Pan.
Fearless and entirely giving to the audience, Anna Calvi’s sound is one of early PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, and Eno-era Roxy Music. Combined with the theatrics of Kate Bush and the uniqueness of Prince, but overwhelmingly it’s Bowie as Jareth that continues to resonate.
Tonight’s transfixed audience witnesses something special, a true artist at work in their natural setting. Anna Calvi is simultaneously from the past and the future, but not from now. One thing’s for sure, she’s certainly an act that needs to be experienced live.
Photo credit: Frank Ralph