Gig review: Anna Calvi, Wilton's Music Hall, London


You may be tempted, when Anna Calvi steps onstage, to note how small she is compared to her enormous black guitar, or to comment on her angelic blond Marcel waves.

Do not. For Calvi will fix you with her baleful vampire eyes and unleash a look. Such is the fate of a wag who aimlessly yells “ANNA!”, prompting Calvi’s head to swivel slowly in the direction of the call, eyes freezing blood as they go with a mix of faint amusement and thousand-yard rancour.

She’s not really angry, of course; she’s just a scary, scary lady. Her demeanour as she unveils new songs from her forthcoming second album ‘One Breath’ ensures that one breath is all you can barely hear from the crowd, alongside the tap of your own guilty note-taking fingers on the keypad.

Spare me, Anna! Let me live on so I can testify as to how good these new tracks are: the lies of the lush, almost pastoral ‘Carry Me Over’, with its ferociously heavy guitar work, swelling and crashing, ‘Cry’, with its slowly rolling build and crescendo,  and the wonderfully spooky-soft siren song of ‘Sing To Me’ with its soft guitar vamps. 

This new, subtler work proves, a day after the Mercury nominations were released that Calvi has much more in her than just her exquisitely stylised, Mercury-nominated debut of 2011. She will be the flash in no one’s pan, and her victory stroke is the divine ‘Piece By Piece’, with its softly shuffling rhythm and half-spoken, creepily sexy vocal, itching and inching under your skin.

Her older tracks are still strikingly powerful; that self-titled debut established a seductive shtick, with flamenco and surf-toned guitar and a heavy, ominous, lust-charged lushness. The wonderful strop and swoon of ‘Blackout’ seems faster than usual, but is all the more tempestuous for it, while ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ proves again her formidable vocal control, her command of dynamics, swooping seamlessly between whisper-soft and hellishly strident.

‘The Devil’, meanwhile, is a showcase for Calvi’s masterly guitar skills, the lovely multi-hued ring of her circular strumming style. She's kept the crowd rapt to the slightest move of her little finger, but the only thing left to be scared of, as she closes with her Valkyrie take on Edith Piaf’s ‘Jezebel’, is how good tonight has been.