Frank YangI didn’t go to New York this past weekend expressly to see Anna Calvi; although she was only playing a handful of North American dates following the release of her second album One Breath last month, I had no doubt she’d be back for a full and proper tour before too long and air travel wouldn’t be necessary to see her play. I was planning to go to New York anyways, however, and did I schedule said trip to intersect with her show at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg? Maaaaaybe.
Opening up were Washington DC’s Gems, a co-ed duo who play soulful, electro-pop that’s getting a moderate amount of buzz in the same way that many other co-ed duos who play soulful, electro-pop are. Which is not to say they weren’t alright, but you couldn’t help feel like they were just one of the contestants in the Hunger Games of co-ed duos who play soulful electro-pop and whether they’d come out on top or be an also-ran wasn’t clear. Working in their favour was a sound and show that was well-polished and songs that were solidly-crafted if not outstanding on one listen, and against them were the fact that, well, blending smoky vocals, echoey guitar lines, and canned beats danceable enough for the band to groove and the audience to sway isn’t especially fresh. But even so, I give them pretty good odds. Their debut EP Medusa came out this week.
As they were setting up the stage for Anna Calvi’s set, I thought that someone had accidentally her mic stand out of position. With the boom set low and almost perpendicular to the stand, surely it was far too low for Calvi to sing into. What I had forgotten – or perhaps didn’t notice when I finally saw her live last in December 2011 – is that Calvi is absolutely tiny in stature, even in stilettos, and her Telecaster – hardly the largest electric guitar out there – looked gigantic on her. But all presumptions of petiteness were rendered irrelevant from the moment she struck said guitar, and opened her mouth to said mic.
Opening with “Suzanne & I” off her 2011 self-titled debut – one of my favourites of the year and still in steady rotation – Calvi’s preternatural guitar and vocal abilities were well on display; the former viscerally virtuostic, the latter enormously emotive, and both massive is scale. Her band was expanded to include a keyboardist alongside her long-term multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpaz as well as new drummer, replacing the just-departed Daniel Maiden-Wood, but functioned like a well-oiled machine in supporting Calvi and allowing her to do her thing.
With the front half of the show dominated on the relatively more subdued and atmospheric One Breath, the emphasis was more on Calvi’s voice, as powerful as her operatic training would allow but also soft and seductive when called to be, even when she was more focused on tuning her guitar than send shivers down the audience’s collective backs, shivers ensued. The guitar chops were used judiciously – though always for killing blows – but by the time they reached “I’ll Be Your Man”, the Tele-triggered sonic explosions were becoming more frequent and intense and when she pulled out a Gretsch Sparkle Jet for “Carry Me Over”, feedback and Bigsby abuse were added to her arsenal of attack. Appropriately, the set hit its crescendo with “Desire” and was sustained with Calvi in full guitar hero mode through main set closer, “Love Won’t Be Leaving”. After that breathtaking showing, expecting an encore seemed unreasonable but she was coaxed out for the the smouldering “Bleed Into Me” and then her customary closer, a cover of Edith Piaf’s “Jezebel”, before leaving for good.
So no, I didn’t fly to another country just to see Anna Calvi play, but I certainly would have. And I still have her eventual Toronto show next year to look forward to.
W, The Vine, and The Independent have features on Anna Calvi. And if any geeks out there wanted a look at her pedalboard, I got a shot (it’s all run into a Vox AC30).
Photos: Anna Calvi, Gems @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg – November 11, 2013
MP3: Anna Calvi – “The Wall”
MP3: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
MP3: Anna Calvi – “Jezebel”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Wolf Like Me”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Suzanne & I”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Desire”
Video: Gems – “Pegasus”
Cate Le Bon has marked this week’s release of her new album Mug Museum with a new video; she plays The Drake Underground on January 21 and tells The Independent what fantasy band she wishes could be backing her up at that gig.
Video: Cate Le Bon – “Are You With Me Now?”
AllMusic is streaming the whole of Stornoway’s new EP You Don’t Know Anything, which came out this week. A new album should follow in 2014.
Stream: Stornoway / You Don’t Know Anything
Rose Elinor Dougall’s new EP Future Vanishes is out next week, but you can stream the title track from it now.
Stream: Rose Elinor Dougall – “Future Vanishes”
Dazed has an interview with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange as well as a whole bunch of pieces with his collaborators on Cupid Deluxe, which is out in physical form next Tuesday; a new video from it has just been released.
Video: Blood Orange – “Time Will Tell”
Under The Radar talks to London psych-rockers Temples, coming to town for a show at The Horseshoe on November 20; their debut album comes out next year.
Paste talks to director Shane Meadows about his Stone Roses doc Made Of Stone, premiering at The Bloor Cinema on November 22.
Exclaim reports that Kele Okereke is using the Bloc Party hiatus to return to being Kele; and will release the Heartbreaker EP on November 25; you can stream the title track now.
Stream: Kele – “Heartbreaker”
Yuck have rolled out a new video from their new record Glow & Behold. They’re at at The Garrison on January 17.
Video: Yuck – “Lose My Breath”
As expected, Johnny Flynn has added a Toronto date to his already-announced tour in support of new album Country Mile; he’ll be at Lee’s Palace on January 22, tickets $13.
Video: Johnny Flynn – “Gypsy Hymn”
Done teasing with apps and constellations, Metronomy have announced a March 10 release date for their new album Love Letters. Details at Pitchfork, streamable first single below.
Stream: Metronomy – “I’m Aquarius”
Guy Garvey discusses the new Elbow album Carry Her Carry Me, out March 10, with NME.
Manic Street Preachers have confirmed their new album, a plugged-in companion of sorts to this year’s Rewind The Film, to NME. It’s called Futurology and will probably be out around the time of their just-announced UK tour dates, which is to say late March/early April.
The Line Of Best Fit has an interview with Fanfarlo. Their new full-length is out next year.
Lily Allen has kicked off her return to music with a new video that is as controversial as she’d probably intended, though maybe not in the way she’d like.
Video: Lily Allen – “Hard Out Here”
Spin interviews M.I.A..
David Bowie has released another video for the James Murphy remix of “Love Is Lost” off The Next Day Extra via Vice, and Pitchfork the Louis Vuitton short film that he stars in because he is David Bowie and he does things like star in short films for Louis Vuitton.
Video: David Bowie – “Love Is Lost” (Hello Steve Reich remix video two)
Under The Radar talks to Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys.
MTV Hive has an interview with Los Campesinos!.
The Alternate Side welcomes London Grammar for an interview and session.
Franz Ferdinand talks to Tone Deaf and plays a video session for Triple M.
The Guardian declares Suede’s reunion as a reunion done right.
And speaking of reunions (which won’t happen), Ride have made their YouTube channel worth a visit with a complete stream of their digitally-reissued Waves compilation of BBC sessions, including three tracks not on the CD issue, and the full professionally-shot video of the 1992 Brixton Academy show which was included as a bonus disc to the 20th anniversary reissue of Going Blank Again last year.
Stream: Ride / Waves
Video: Ride – Leave Them All Behind (live at Brixton Academy 27/03/1992)