Gig review: Anna Calvi

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ANNA Calvi is the mouse that roared. Petite, polite and almost inaudible when she addressed the crowd, this striking she-devil in disguise unleashed great dramatic power when she sang in her rich low alto range, bending and manipulating notes to her will. Comparisons with PJ Harvey have been profuse, but overly flattering.

Backed by spare, purposeful drumming and the atmospheric wheeze of harmonium, Calvi would normally have been handling guitar-playing duties herself but injury forced her to bestow her axe on a guest player, rather exposing her as an insular performer.

Perhaps experience will allow her to push the boat out further and find the flamboyance to match her flamenco-inspired image and the Latin flourish in some of her arrangements; then she can truly own her performance with the theatrical command that her noir rock influences, Nick Cave and Tom Waits, manage so audaciously.

But as yet she does not have the songs to back her aspirations.

Ironically, given her self-aware stage presence and committed delivery, most of her material was forgettable, relying on vocal acrobatics rather than melody for colour and interest. Only the closing Love Won't Be Leaving delivered a heady hook compelling enough to justify her intensity, and it was notable that she gave her most immersive performance with a tour de force encore rendition of the Frankie Laine/Edith Piaf song Jezebel.