Cathedrals are built for music. The sheer size of them and the atmosphere they create make for amazing venues. But it takes the right kind of act to make a setting like this work. Unfortunately for support band Halloween Alaska, they weren’t it. Sounding like a fairly dull Villagers making shoegaze after listening to Bon Iver’s second album, they weren’t inspiring enough to meet the challenges of such a different venue. The stage was set for a disappointment.
But then Anna Calvi strode out onto the stage. Outfitted like a male flamenco dancer and wielding a guitar like a sword, she oozes stage presence without even trying. She barely speaks to the audience, save for the occasional thank you. But she doesn’t need to. From instrumental opener ‘Rider to the Sea’ she has the audience captivated in the music. She goes from almost whispering her lyrics during the quietly captivating ‘No More Words’ to bursting into life during ‘Blackout’. Lots of bands try and create an atmosphere. With Anna Calvi, it’s more like a seduction.
The set is mostly drawn from her recent self-titled debut album. Singles ‘Desire’ and ‘Suzanne and I’ are highlights but don’t dwarf the rest of the set. ‘First We Kiss’ is a particular highlight as is set closer ‘Love Wont be Leaving’ with its extended instrumentals that slowly build to a climax. Some older material also gets an airing including the provocative ‘Surrender’. Returning to the stage for an encore, she launches into her first single, a cover of Edith Piaf’s ‘Jezabel’ that she makes entirely her own.
By filling the daunting Cathedral setting, Anna Calvi proved her ability as a songwriter, a musician and a performer. With her accomplished and interesting live show, she’s an act that could restore your faith in British music.