Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Anna Calvi at Bush Hall - 26 April 2011

Not Anna Calvi (photo Dakotassong)

There’s thin and there’s Anna Calvi thin. Her hair slicked back, her twig-like arms sticking down from the sleeves of her red Spanish styled top. She’s a striking figure but she looks artificial, a flamenco Barbie.

Calvi is joined tonight by two band members. Daniel Maiden-Wood is a sleek haired drummer and Mally Harpaz a wonderful and wild percussionist who plays a range of cymbals, drums and a wooden box of tricks that I what not of. (Ok, it’s a harmonium).

Calvi has an arch take on Latin inflected Fifties rock and roll. If you picture Jane Russell heaving beneath a bodice in a cantina down Mexico way, then Anna Calvi is providing the soundtrack.

Despite flirting with this fiery music, Calvi is not an abandoned performer. She is studied and precise, a figurine. The sound this evening is crystal clear and when she thrums her guitar the resultant note could cut glass.

There is very little direct interaction with the audience. This show is all about the sound, the vision, the effect. It is impressive, but necessarily cold – Calvi is not a cuddly presence.

Her voice is an operatic roar that seems too big for her body. During ‘Suzanne and I’ she is shaking with the passion of her delivery, her mouth open wide as if almost to dispel the demon within her.

The aptly named track ‘The Devil’ is another highlight, Calvi’s guitar clutched tightly to her chest as though she fears that it might flee from her.

The encore is a version of the old standard ‘Jezebel’ and it is only at this point that Calvi’s carefully crafted façade starts to slip just a small fraction. It is a swirling, histrionic epic of a song and as she ends with a flourish you can just spot the singer relaxing and smiling in triumph at bringing it off.

It has been a really impressive performance, if not quite a joyous one. The whole Anna Calvi persona is a projection, a finely wrought simulacrum of passion and fury rather than the real thing. It is fascinating and it will be interesting to see what she does next – I suspect that it could be something very different.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Were you aware that you had seen Anna Calvi before? She was the 'token' guitarist mentioned in this review!