OH, THE drama! Few artists have conjured a sense of tense atmosphere in the dark tunnel of The Arches quite like Anna Calvi did here, her explosion of curly brown hair, kohl-rimmed eyes and preference for not saying anything much at all to the crowd concealing a caged tiger of a singing voice and a fierce guitar muse that could split the pin-drop silence without warning at any moment.
The Arches, Glasgow
* * * *
While the Twickenham singer-songwriter’s mentoring from Brian Eno and subsequent considerable press hype at the top of 2011 didn’t quite equate to the kind of commercial success it perhaps ought to have done – though a Mercury prize nomination did follow – Calvi’s fairly unique appeal still threatens to bubble over into an outright breakout. Her second album, One Breath, was one of the best-reviewed records of 2013.
Backed by a drummer and two multi-instrumentalists switching between keys, guitar/bass, percussion and harmonium, the amount of ground covered spoke to the sheer versatility of Calvi’s craft and the ease with which she distinctively inhabits a whole swathe of different influences.
Eliza smouldered then ignited with a Hendrix-style flaming guitar solo. Love Of My Life was pure Sonic Youth in its primordial post-punk sludginess, while Piece By Piece touched on Portishead’s twisted electronic ambience. “This one’s a Bruce Springsteen song” Calvi introduced – she speaks! – a skeletal take on the Boss’s Fire before Desire and Blackout moved the set into its highest gear.
She closed with her theatrical debut single Jezebel, ending on a long, high, tremulous howl somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Edith Piaf. When the house lights came up, you could practically feel the sharp, collective ntake of breath.
(Seen on 5.2.14)