Anna Calvi thunders straight into her set with the magnificent, melodramatic Suzanne & I, one of the highlights of her eponymous first album. Eliza, and Suddenly follow, from the latest album One Breath and the mellow Brudenell crowd is treated to a night to remember from this phenomenal performer and her band.
It’s hard to believe I can just wander up and stand a few yards away from an artiste who, in a different sort of world, I should be paying big bucks to see in massive venues. But the Brudenell’s cosy, Bohemian atmosphere is a perfect setting for the more stripped-down versions of her orchestra-backed studio material.
Anna just caresses her guitar strings in the quieter moments of Suzanne & I, in readiness for the onslaught of power and distorted noise unleashed later. She creates the magic by combining the operatic-style finesse of her voice with moments of exquisite junkyard frenzy on guitar.
Tonight, she is backed by three musicians on drums, keyboards, and harmonium, interchanging with bass guitar and other percussive instruments, who sound more than the sum of their parts.
She doesn’t say anything between songs, for the most part uttering just a quiet ‘thank-you’, but there’s some unintended lightness when her guitar sound’s not all it should be at one point and she shouts backstage ‘Geoffrey!’ to one of her crew, which several of the audience imitate. She jokes in response: “Well, you know I’m such a diva.”
Obviously, any of her live sets will be dominated by the opener and the old favourites Desire and Love Won’t Be Leaving, but the One Breath material worked very well, especially the mesmerising Cry.
Who’d have thought the spirit of Hendrix could live on in a petite, young classically-trained musician with her hair scraped back in a bun style.
Gig date: February 4