Anna Calvi - The Cockpit, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Anna Calvi - The Cockpit, Leeds

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Halloween, Alaska have some interesting elements to their music. Their tightly controlled funk rhythms recall Japan's less overtly synth-pop moments, while the constant throb and ebb of organ underpinning their music puts me in mind of Dance Disaster Movement. However, for the most part they just sound like some horrible beige crossbreed of Maroon 5 and Sting which is, obviously, intolerable. I'm very glad when they stop playing and vacate the stage.

Opening with the sparse instrumental 'Rider to the Sea', which moves from bluesy figures to spaghetti western melodrama, is a brave move from Anna Calvi, but it sends a clear signal that this is not just a run-of-the-mill gig we're getting - it's a show. Sparsely backed on stage, Calvi may be slight of frame and squeaky of speaking voice but she has no trouble dominating our senses once she begins to play and sing. The expansive, swooping sound she summoned on her eponymous debut is perfectly recreated tonight in a performance which, you suspect, is well rehearsed and regimented.

The spotlight remains fixed on Calvi throughout. She moves little, keeping audience interaction to a minimum, but she effortlessly transfixes through the energy she gives out and her obvious skill as a guitarist. Her image is also striking: hair scraped back, bright red suit against pale skin - she's like the revenge fantasy of a Robert Palmer video extra. For all her apparent severity and austere stage persona, the set tonight is full of quietly impressive moments, such as 'Morning Light', which demonstrate the staggering command Calvi has over her voice, building from a sensual whisper to a full-bodied shout and falling back again in an instant.

Her playing in similarly virtuoso, leaning heavily on bluesy note-bending. Thankfully, whenever things seem to be getting a little too Jools Holland, she hits us with an unexpected burst of atonal noise. At times, her scratchy riffing recalls DNA or Mars. We get staggeringly good versions of 'Suzanne and I' and 'Desire', the two most accessible songs on her album, and a final, soaring encore of 'Love Won't Be Leaving'. It's pretty jaw-dropping, the talent this woman has to burn. Part Kate Bush, part PJ Harvey, part Jeff Buckley, a little bit no wave noise explosion - Anna Calvi live is a force to be reckoned with.

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