Anna Calvi is one of the great shining lights of modern music, and she brought the crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg to their knees on Monday night.
She opened with my favourite track, Suzanne & I, which unfortunately had a bit of a false start as Anna’s guitar wasn’t working properly, but she quickly got things together and blasted out the rest of the song. Next up was Eliza, the lead single from her new album, One Breath, which features a blistering guitar solo and Calvi’s signature vocals; all the ingredients which make her so delectable.
The crowd were enthusiastic and completely under her spell for the duration of the set, myself included, as she made eye contact a few times during the slower songs. It was like being locked in a tractor beam. Phasers were definitely set to stun with her gaze (ok enough of the bad Star Trek puns.) One audience member audibly gasped with delight after Sing to Me. Maybe she gave him the eyes too.
Calvi doesn’t speak much between songs; the odd thank you and an introduction to the band, which features Mally Harpaz on harmonium along with a new drummer and an additional keyboard/guitar player for this tour. Despite the introductions, all eyes are on Anna. For the duration of her 80-minute set, she may as well be the centre of the universe.
The crowd’s reaction forced her to break out into many a smile between songs. It almost seemed out of character with her stage persona, which is that of an intense, lost-in-the-moment artist. Calvi is soft spoken and almost embarrassingly polite, though as a performer she’s completely stark, which makes here all the more interesting to watch.
During the set-ending track Love Won’t Be Leaving, we were treated to her customary extended guitar solo, which just blew everyone away. Her guitar skills really come to the fore when she’s performing, and they’re up there with the best in music.
If I were to score the show I would mark one point down for two reasons:
1) The vocals were a bit lower in the mix than I would have liked
2) One of the things we all dread at shows… the farter. Someone in the audience let rip with vulgar regularity throughout the night. Don’t you just hate those who use the cover of a crowd to anonymously release noxious fumes?!
Despite those two gripes, it was a fantastic show, which Calvi rounded off with a deserved encore of Bleed Into Me and finally her cover of Edith Piaf’s Jezebel.
Opening act Gems were unfortunately a really poor match for Calvi’s strong performance, and a bit of a snoozefest, truth be told. Their set was a bit too nice and lightweight; offensively inoffensive.
Suzanne & I
Sing to Me
I’ll Be Your Man
Piece by Piece
Carry Me Over
Love Won’t Be Leaving
Bleed Into Me