Anna Calvi: Back in Toronto (A Review)

December 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized)

Usually when I’m going to a concert there’s a part of me that wishes I could skip it: I have to work, it’s cold, I’m tired etc. Inertia rules. But I didn’t experience any of that going to see Anna Calvi last Thursday at Lee’s Palace. In fact, I was positively buzzing at the thought of seeing her again.  Calvi is likely my favourite new artist.  

I went to Calvi’s debut Canadian show in the spring without having heard a single song of hers partly as a result of the hype about her – hey, Brian Eno and Nick Cave are fans, that’s worth something. Usually hype is one of those things you can take or leave, but I was completely stunned by the intensity of this slight woman wielding a big guitar and her two person back-up band. I bought the album the next day and was similarly knocked out by it.

At 9:15, opening band the Gift took the stage. The Gift are a four piece band from Portugal playing a kind of funky dance-pop. And dance they did. For forty minutes the band bounced around the Lee’s stage as the audience warmed up.  

Several of the songs in their set build to a very satisfying conclusion  but unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of  any of the songs they played. Surely a number appear on the band’s newly released fifth album Explode.

Anna Calvi took the stage at 10:35. Dressed in a familiar red shirt, but with her hair down, Calvi began with the Morricone-esque instrumental and then worked her way through the album adding only a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Surrender.”

Throughout the show, Calvi maintain an aura of exquisite cool, hardly speaking to the audience (her first words were half way through the set), but preferring to let her art speak for her. At the risk of repeating myself, intense is the word to use.

Calvi is backed by multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpez and drummer Daniel Maiden-Wood who create the rhythmic back beat to Calvi’s work, but it is her voice and guitar which are centre stage at all times. There’s a passion in her  music which is sensual. Rock and roll is supposed to be about sex, but I don’t want to fall into such clichés because Calvi is a woman (indeed one meathead in the audience called out a crude comment and was justly shouted down). So while the album has genuinely fresh and exciting, it’s the live show that necessary to experience the range of her talent.  

As usual my complaint was that of the patron who leaves wanting more, but this time there was also the fear that the next time I see her, she will have justly moved to a much bigger venue.


To the Sea
No more Words
I’ll be your Man
First We Kiss
Suzanne and I
Wolf Like Me
Morning Light
Love Won’t be Leaving




1 Comment

  1. Goodbye 2011 « Notes from Underground said,

    […] buzz, but ignore that; she really is that good. I saw her twice this year, at the El Mocambo and at Lee’s Palace. She basically played the same set, but it was sooooo good, I didn’t care. I don’t […]

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