Tuesday, December 13th, 2011


Anna Calvi at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the first part of Thursday night, I was – as recounted yesterday – happily seeing my favourite band deliver the best performance of theirs I’d ever seen. So why, in the name of all that’s holy, did I leave early? Because of Anna Calvi. The British-Italian artist released one of my favourite records of 2011 (ooh, year-end list spoiler!) in her self-titled debut, but fate seemed determined to keep me from seeing her perform it live.

First, her CMW and SXSW showcases – which were legion – were cancelled due to an arm injury, then the make-up date in May came on the exact same night I was in Barcelona seeing Pulp (yes, no sympathies, I understand) and then, even though I know there technically wasn’t a local date, her being on the bill at Osheaga in Montreal in August felt like missing her again. So nothing – not even the aforementioned conflicting show – was going to keep me from catching this latest date. Though the cabbie that took me from the Air Canada Centre to Lee’s Palace certainly gave it a shot, managing to catch every red light between one venue to the next and not seeming to get a read on my urgency in the back seat. Maybe I wasn’t swearing loud enough.

In any case, I made it and only missed the first 10 minutes or so of her set. Unfortunately, her set was only about 45 minutes in total so it felt awfully brief, but what I did see made the anxiety of the cross-city club-hopping worthwhile. Backed by a drummer and percussionist/harmoniumist (?) and without the aid of any kind of set dressing, Calvi nonetheless managed to transform Lee’s Palace from a rock club into a cabaret, an opera house, a smoky jazz lounge, all by virtue of her music. Okay, suggesting there was no visuals at play is just wrong; done up in her stage uniform of blood-red blouse and lipstick with jet-black pants and stilettos, she was quite the striking figure. But her appearance wasn’t why it was impossible to take your eyes off of her. No sir.

It’s a toss-up which is more astonishing, Calvi’s vocals or her guitar skills, and in a live setting she doesn’t make it any easier to choose. To the former, she was more breathy than belty, slowing songs like “Suzanne & I” down for a more sensual and seductive delivery – if that’s even possible – and also to make the moments where she unleashed the full strength of her voice that much more powerful. And as for her instrumental abilities, well let’s just say that Telecasters have long been my favourite guitar but I’ve never wanted to BE one so much before. Any time she stepped away from the mic to take a solo, it was eye-opening and jaw-dropping the sounds she was able to coax out of the most basic of electric guitars; the soaring and guttural instrumental break in set-closer “Love Won’t Be Leaving” was particularly unexpected and devastating.

The set seemed to comprise the whole of her album (this was confirmed by folks who’d seen the whole show) and a couple of covers, the recently-released reinvention of TV On The Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” and Frankie Laine/Edith Piaf standard “Jezebel” for the encore, so that it still seemed short was no one’s fault but the cabbie. But I suspect that even if the show had run two hours, I’d still be wanting more. Next time.

NOW also has a review of the show while JAM, The Montreal Mirror, Winnipeg Free Press, Under The Radar, and The Vine all have interviews with Calvi.

Photos: Anna Calvi @ Lee’s Palace – December 8, 2011
MP3: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
MP3: Anna Calvi – “Jezebel”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Suzanne & I”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Blackout”
Video: Anna Calvi – “Desire”

So very pleased to see that Slow Club will be touring their second album Paradise to North America – they’ve just announced a February 19 date at The Rivoli, tickets $12 in advance and worth every penny. For a preview, check out this video session just posted at They Shoot Music and also this interview at DIY.

Video: Slow Club – “Where I’m Waking”
Video: Slow Club – “Two Cousins”

Billboard has posted excerpts from year-end cover story on their artist of the year, Adele, in which she says to not expect a third album anytime soon.

Spinner and The Toronto Star have interviews with Laura Marling, whose recent concert for Philadephia’s WXPN is available to stream at NPR.

Spinner has a video session and interview with Florence & The Machine and Florence Welch talks to Rolling Stone about how well things are going with her in the wake of Ceremonials release.

Over at The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones articulates why Emmy The Great’s Virtue was one of the best records of the year. I concur!

The Twilight Sad will treat the February 21 release date of their third record No One Can Ever Know like a starter’s pistol for a North American tour which will bring them through Lee’s Palace on February 29 en route to SXSW.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Kill It In The Morning”

The Guardian is streaming a video of Richard Hawley covering The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For My Man” at last week’s Other Voices festival. This reminds us of two things: first, Richard Hawley is awesome and second, Richard Hawley is due a new album. Let’s have it, then.

Fire Records has posted details of the three Pulp reissues they’ll be putting out in the new year – each of Freaks, Separations and It will be remastered, appended with bonus tracks and set free into the world on February 13.

Under The Radar reports that two Radiohead will release a new single of King Of Limbs-session tracks debuted as part of their From The Basement broadcast will be released as a digital single on December 19. If this interests you, then you’ve already heard the songs.

Video: Radiohead – “The Daily Mail” (live on From The Basement)
Video: Radiohead – “Staircase” (live on From The Basement)

Spinner reports that The Stone Roses have signed major label record deals for a third album to go along with their reunion. Gotta give them credit – if they’re going to make this a fiasco, they’re going all in.

The Guardian reports that Nick Cave called time on Grinderman on stage in Australia this past weekend. I can only assume this was a planned break to work on the new Bad Seeds record that had originally been targeted for release as early as this year, though clearly that’s been pushed until 2012. If it’s actually internal band friction, that’ll make that first Bad Seeds rehearsal awkward as it’s basically the same band.

Niki & The Dove have released a new video from their The Drummer EP. Update: Make that two videos?

Video: Niki & The Dove – “DJ Ease My Mind”
Video: Niki & The Dove – “Mother Protect”

The Stool Pigeon talks to the Söderberg of First Aid Kit about their new record The Lion’s Roar, out January 24. They’re at The Great Hall on April 4.

By : Frank Yang at 8:29 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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  1. Bruce says:

    For me (and apparently for you too), the dynamics of Anna Calvi’s delivery made for the standout aspect of her show. The quieter stuff on her record can get lost when you’re listening in the kitchen or on the subway, but in person it becomes hang-on-every-word riveting. And you’re quite right that her outfit constitutes a stage uniform – she wore the exact same thing when she played the El Mo in the spring.

    I thought there had been another cover in Anna Calvi’s set that I couldn’t identify, and on finding a setlist posted from her Montreal show a couple of days earlier it included an Elvis cover, Surrender. Sounds about right, but someone with better powers of memory might be able to corroborate that…