Friday 24 November 2017

Anna Calvi, Vicar Street, Review

Anna Calvi

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Almost exactly a year ago, Anna Calvi made her Irish debut at St John's Church in Dingle for the filming of Other Voices.

It's quite remarkable that this then unknown singer and guitarist is now filling Vicar St, marking another milestone in a rather phenomenal first year where she also received a Mercury Music Prize nomination for her eponymous debut album.

Calvi has a petite and pretty frame, but is much more commanding than her size suggests. She used to wear her hair slicked back, but now her curly tresses are free flowing and the new look suits her.

She's a brilliant virtuoso guitarist, playing a succession of stark and emotive solos with impressive aplomb such as the opening instrumental 'Rider to the Sea'.

The mood and texture is more than a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, and her sound also owes a little bit to the feral madness of early PJ Harvey and perhaps a hint of Siouxsie & the Banshees.

Unsurprisingly, one of her first champions was Nick Cave. Another vocal advocate is Brian Eno, who acts as an unofficial mentor and backing vocalist guest on her album.

To be fair, tracks from her debut show bucket loads of promise, but few are yet the full article. 'Blackout' is a contender for single of the year, a superb soaring power pop song and the catchiest thing in her repertoire by miles, but precious little in her set matches this calibre.

All artists face the challenge of padding out a full set armed with just one album early in their career. Calvi opts for some quirky covers that she performs admirably, especially 'Surrender' by Elvis Presley. She also chips in 'Wolf Like Me' from Brooklyn art-rock outfit TV on the Radio and her final encore is a shimmering rendition of Edith Piaf's 'Jezebel'.

Her best song to date, a deliciously dark gothic rock epic entitled 'Love Won't Be Leaving' closes the main set and reveals the full extent of her powers. It's a compelling hybrid of the atmospherics of Ennio Morricone and David Lynch, hinting at a breathtaking cinematic vision in her music that will be fascinating to keep tabs on.

Her accomplished debut has brought her this far, but occasional moments of sheer genius like this indicate that perhaps far better things are to come.

Maybe one day she will step out of the shadow of hype and become as great as some of the illustrious talents she is compared to.

Irish Independent

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