The new songs swoop from high emotion to calm reflection, Calvi keeping it controlled with the skill of a master seductress
Anna Calvi: out to prove that her stunning Mercury-nominated debut wasn’t a one-off. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Vicar Street, Dublin
She looks like she stepped out of the video for Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love – black trouser suit, high heels, red lipstick and Wella hair – but when Anna Calvi unleashes her earth-shaking guitar riffs and roof-lifting vocals on Saturday night, it’s clear that she’s got the punch to match the pulchritude.
Calvi is, like the subject of Palmer’s 1980s hit, seriously addicted to love – and she’s also hooked on passion, desire, temptation and all that other good stuff. There’s a fever in her classically trained voice and a sense of danger to her accomplished, reverb-drenched guitar playing. Currently on tour to promote her second album, One Breath, Calvi is out to prove that her stunning Mercury-nominated debut wasn’t a one-off. The new songs swoop from high emotion to calm reflection, Calvi keeping it tightly controlled with the skill of a master seductress. Suddenly creeps up behind you, then strikes like a cobra, while Sing to Me’s hypnotic siren-call vocals work a charm. Eliza is an epic stomper that plays to Calvi’s considerable strengths, but Piece By Piece is a paean to the fragility of memory.
Earlier songs such as Suzanne and I, I’ll Be Your Man (from the debut album), and Love of My Life show Calvi’s masculine side – and it’s equally beguiling.
Throughout her hour-plus set, Calvi blends shades of PJ Harvey, Piaf and Goldfrapp in her vocals, and feeds echoes of Ry Cooder, Link Wray and Hendrix through her guitar, while her band, including Mally Harpaz on harmonium, vibes and percussion and Daniel Maiden-Wood on drums, mesh in nicely with the mood swings.
She takes the stage alone for a solo rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Fire – you can see sparks fly from her guitar. There’s a frisson of excitement as she delivers debut album favourite Desire, and the epic Love Won’t Be Leaving, while Jezebel makes for a devilishly delicious finale. You couldn’t call this 1950s song a cover – Calvi has taken it, enslaved it, and made it do her bidding. It’s her song now.