Gig Review: Anna Calvi and the Heritage Orchestra and Choir @ St John’s Church, Hackney 13/12/2014

Review by Mark Kelly

Photos by James McGalliard

Anna_Calvi_Strange_Weather_EP Tonight’s gig is a somewhat fascinating prospect: being part experiment, part Christmas treat for the fans. Promised are collaborators old and new, cover versions and new songs. Can’t wait!

However, wait we must. The doors open at 7pm, there is no support act, and Anna is not due onstage until 8.45pm (she appears at about 9). No matter, for a church the venue is quite cosy, and it is that most rare of animals, a consecrated church with a (albeit temporary) licensed bar. Hot mulled cider with rum whiles away the time quite agreeably.

Anna appears looking decidedly nervous, and with the choir plays an apparently new instrumental called The Bridge. This leads into Rider To The Sea (with the orchestra) which is quickly followed by Sing To Me. Having heard the orchestra on two familiar songs, one can’t help but feel that they occasionally seem a little superfluous: the arrangements of the songs don’t seem to have been altered sufficiently to properly accommodate them. Anna Calvi 13-DEC-2014. by James McGalliard (3062)

Presently the first guest, David Okumu from The Invisible, is ushered onstage to provide additional guitar on a cover of Connan Mockasin’s I’m The Man, That Will Find You. This is from Anna’s Strange Weather EP, which seems largely to have been the inspiration for this show.

Anna Calvi 13-DEC-2014. by James McGalliard (3066) The modus operandi for the show seems now to have been set. Guests come and go. Charlie Fink from Noah and the Whale appears for the EPs title track, Patrick Wolf joins for (I believe) a new song called Kiss To Your Twin. The whole of the EP (which is made up of covers) is gradually played, and Anna performs a very powerful version of Bruce Springsteen’s Fire with just her voice and guitar.
The main set closes with Suzanne and I and Love Won’t Be Leaving. However, Anna is soon back with the EPs producer Thomas Bartlett for a piano and voice reading of David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul. This is followed by a wonderful version of Suicide’s Ghost Rider, which is propelled by an electro bass line that could have easily fallen off the back of a Bjork track, and features Anna unleashing squalls of bottleneck guitar. Maybe she needed to exorcise some tension. Finally we have a voice and orchestra version of Eliza.

At worst this was an interesting gig. It was certainly an ambitious one, and I think that Anna was very aware of that. She neither played nor sang with her usual abandon, although that is in no way to say that her performances were bad – they just didn’t reach her normal heights of excellence. That it was being filmed possibly didn’t help. This was a good gig, but not a great one. However, one must praise Anna for having the guts to try something different, which overall worked.

Mark Kelly

Anna Calvi 13-DEC-2014. by James McGalliard (3060)