Updated: Monday, 19th August 2019 @ 10:17am

Review: Anna Calvi @ Manchester Cathedral - 14/11/11

Review: Anna Calvi @ Manchester Cathedral - 14/11/11

By Stephen Sumner & Charlotte Dobson

Anna Calvi took to the stage at Manchester Cathedral this week - here's what Stephen and Charlotte thought of her performance.

His:

Anna Calvi was new for me. Not totally new, I always prefer to go with some grounding, so I spent the few days before the gig getting acquainted. 

Her self-titled record did not prepare me for the level of sheer prowess her show boasted. 

I was expecting that, without a great wealth of songs, the whole thing would be over quite quickly – she’d play her album and be on her merry way. 

But, this being Manchester Cathedral, it was clear that she would have to step up to the plate.

Her opener, Rider to the Sea, set the tone for what we were to expect in terms of musical ability. She strummed the guitar through flamenco to more rocky riffs in just the first few minutes. 

She exuded a rock star ambience that made it hard not to feel seduced. Even in the expanse of the venue, her sensual whispers drew me in, only to be blown away by her voice at full strength, and its full breadth and depth were revealed. 

Her songs were drawn out with dramatic, Claptonesque solos, in which Anna threw back her head into the halo of a spotlight. Her music is not devoid of similar religious connotations. Desire is the most blatant, as she talks of “the devil in me.” Her sound and the topics she cover made her an obvious choice for the cathedral at time, but at other times it felt illicit, a bit overtly sexual for a church. 

Her cover of TV on the Radio was extraordinary, almost unrecognisable, in the best possible way. Wolf Like Me fit her themes of struggling to control her passion, and when our eyes met (she was so looking at me) we connected. I’m sure she felt it too. So I, for one, am hooked. 

Hers

With blood red lips, guitar and a ferocious voice Anna Calvi’s haunting sound filled Manchester Cathedral on Monday night.

As a huge fan of her first album and one of my Glastonbury highlights – I knew this would be a great gig.

For those who’ve never heard Calvi’s music, it’s difficult to draw any comparisons to other female singer-song writers because there’s simply no one like her. Counting Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart and Maria Callas as big influences, Calvi delivers a new breed of rock music.

With just a drummer and a percussionist joining her onstage you initially think that this is going to be a nice quiet intimate gig. But no, not for Calvi. She takes to the stage dressed almost like a Spanish flamenco dancer, hoists her guitar up on her hip and belts out the first two tracks of her debut album.

Given that last time I saw Calvi, I was knee deep in mud at Glastonbury, any venue was going to be an upgrade. But Manchester Cathedral is by far the most atmospheric gig venue I’ve been to and it was perfectly suited for Calvi’s powerful sound.

As she played her brilliant single Blackout, the arches and vaults are filled with red light and her deep sonorous tones.

Then with hushed vocals, Calvi almost whispers verses of Surrender to us before bringing back the deep drum beat and twitchy guitar on Suzanne and I.

But what I really love about her as a performer, is her fearlessness on stage – she’s not afraid to strip the songs right down to a whisper before building the wall of sound back up. The same goes for her ability to re-create some of the eery vibe of her album to a live audience. Plus the cathedral provides the perfect setting for her dramatic yet ambient style.

For the encore, Calvi comes back onto stage to a devoted crowd and performs a jarring cover of Edith Piaf’s Jezebel. I look around the room and see that everyone (Ste in particular) is entranced, albeit slightly intimidated, by her banshee-esque vocals.

Overall, a stunning venue for a stunning gig for 'him and her'.