The future of guitar music in 2019 lies with the girls, don’t it. From Wolf Alice to Anteros; from Black Honey to Hey Charlie – the spectres of Albarn, Gallagher, Cocker and co. are currently taking a sulky backseat, whilst Frichmann, Werner, Harvey and Manson (Shirley, not Marylin) loom large in the sounds which are currently emanating from a bit of wood and some strings.
And marching, trailblazing, sword aloft at the head of this army is Anna Calvi. Releasing her eponymous debut back in 2011, she sounded a bit like Florence + The Machine but unshackled, without the edges sanded down; music impossible to drop into the background of the final reveal in DIY SOS because her voice was such that it wrapped itself around your brain and refused to let go, somewhat distracting you from the real wood flooring and new wet room.
Two more albums later, and she’s in Camden’s Roundhouse on a moody Wednesday night, as windswept and dramatic as her music. Clad in red PVC which somehow coordinates with the Victorian gothic of this old train turnstile, the Roundhouse provides a perfect venue for Calvi to showcase her newest and most successful album to date, ‘Hunter’ – and that she does, lending most of the set to tracks from this atmospheric, intense, bombastic yet intimate long player.
And most of these adjectives (I could scatter them throughout this piece again, but please just refer to the paragraph above), apply to the woman herself. As brilliant as her backing band are – and kudos on the two drumkits – I am sure that she could perform the entire show on her own, and still have the audience as enraptured as they are tonight.
A combination of some Kate Bush gothica; amazing, jaw dropping, on-just-the-right-side of overindulgent virtuoso 80s-era Prince guitar, PJ Harvey sultriness… and – dare I say – a touch of Bruce Springsteen? Oh, and also an incredible soaring voice that, from what I can gather, physically knocks one woman in the audience over at the front.
This is a performer that you can’t take your eyes off for one second. Her voice is insane – and I hope I’m not doing her a disservice when I suggest that she should be a shoo-in for the next Bond theme – she could Carly Simon the shit out of it.
But back to the gig – the unconventional and unexpected rhythms; the very of-the-moment themes of androgyny and sexual fluidity; the heavy atmosphere cut through with thrusting guitar and operatic voice - and the highlight - and my new favourite track of hers, ‘Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy’.
She didn’t play ‘Suddenly’, but maybe that would have lifted the atmosphere too much. As it was, the occasion has an almost David Lynch-like quality - like you’ve got too drunk in the Red Room, and someone is holding a blue velvet cushion over your face... in a good way.
It she ventures anywhere close to you this year I urge you to catch her – it’s like a fever dream that never quite leaves you.
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Words: Matt Charlton
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