Brighton Festival: Anna Calvi Weaves A Cinematic Atmosphere @ The Dome

  • Photography: Mike Burnell
  • Words: Jessica Kemp

Anna Calvi’s music is cinematic in its scope. The Brighton Festival performance showcased the twice Mercury-nominated singers ability to immerse an audience in her own particular musical vision.

Artists are often compared to those who have preceded them, Anna Calvi is no exception to the rule, Brian Eno stated she was the best thing since Patti Smith.

No artist can operate in a vacuum. Calvi clearly pulls on a wide range of influences. She has previously confirmed they cover a diverse range, from choral music, Rachmaninov & Rossini to Tom Waits. What makes her stand apart is her determination to follow her own creative path rather than merely aping her predecessors. Admirably she manages this whilst still paying due credit to her influences.

Calvi’s stage persona is constructed to channel the more dominant and forceful side of her personality. With scarlet lips and chignon hair, she often has the appearance and presence of a Matador, harnessing her voice and the guitar to command the Music. In full flow her stage persona could be an intimidating combination for the feint hearted, as it was for one critic her once described her as a “Scary, Scary Lady”.

A combination of influences ranging from music to the visual arts resonate throughout her work. Her videos often have the atmosphere and dreamlike quality of Surrealist film, as do her stage shows. Her usual bold and simple lighting design bathed the stage of the Brighton Dome in the blood reds and violet blues of the videos for ‘Desire’, ‘Susanne and I’ and perhaps the most familiar track ‘Blackout’.

It wasn’t until the third song ‘Eliza’ that Calvi’s command of the stage took hold of her, and subsequently the audience. It is when she seemingly looses herself to the music that Calvi is at her best, wielding her guitar with abandon, and engaging the full force of her voice, the result is a hypnotic combination. Her vocals climbed the scales, from the softest whisper to the loudest roar, soaring to fill the roof of the Brighton Dome.

Accompanying Calvi musical polymath Mally Harper effortlessly moved between percussion and harmonium. Lasting just one hour the set included tracks from her eponymous debut and 2013s One Breath.  A new track ‘Dreams’ followed the plaintive, ‘Cry’.

A characteristically chatter free show, Calvi paused only to introduce the inclusion of Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ and the members of her band before closing with the declaration of passion that is ‘Desire’, and the thunderous ‘Jezebel’.

It was clear that Anna Calvi prefers to let the music do the talking.