Blood red, strong flamenco masculine suits, and armed with a telecaster guitar, Anna Calvi makes a celestial album that is only fully felt live. I recently saw her show as part of David Byrne’s Meltdown Festival, he even spotlighted on stage for a duet of ‘Strange Weather’, the two voices a rare and perfect match to see. With a 12 piece choir surrounding in an arc, there was also a harmonium player, Mally Harpez and a drummer, Daniel Maiden-Wood with lots of stamina.
The sounds were immense, cinematic, mysterious, she might just be one of the most talented and naturally gifted electric guitar players, seemingly effortless and almost an extension of herself, Calvi has played since the age of eight, and has instinctively drawn towards the instrument for primary expression.
Her vocals will blow you away, take tracks like Blackout, where a long drawn call out you’d expect to fade, just doesn’t, her vocals remain powerful and endless throughout. Her stage presence and command is powerfully androgynous.
A true singer-songwriter-artist-instrumentalist, she speaks about isolating herself to protect her inner guidance over the sounds she makes. This comes out in an unwavering sense of focus on stage, surrounded by a choir and so much sound, she sings in perfect tune and is in complete flow and connection with her guitar – the whole album feels intuitive and uniquely hers.
The dark Indian harmonium reminded me of Nico:
A sort of mourning but also a tuning in to a plane of tunnel vision and focus, journeying through each track.
The church-like bell echoing vocals on Tristan and another fearless thundering intro makes it one of my favourites off her One Breath album, an album dealing with themes of lust, love and death.
There’s a delicate way of strumming the guitar as if it’s a harp that, just like her vocals, switch from a calming haunting whisper to an explosive outpour of demons and elysian emotion.
Jezebel has a bull fighting intensity to it, just another one of her tracks that climaxes and crescendos into feats hard to imagine or predict. A timely cover of Edith Piaf’s original version.
Cry has an 80s power ballad ethic to it, stealthy, powerful and timeless. Tracks also have an undercurrent of sultry, smoke-filled blues.
Anyway, I’m extremely late in finding her but wow! Every performance is completely natural, full of quiet strength and inspiration, you’ll leave feeling empowered and excited, highly recommend catching a show.