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Anna Calvi Shines At KCRW Holiday Show

Anna Calvi Shines At KCRW Holiday Show

By Mike Duffy

Flights from London to Australia to Los Angeles over just a few days would make anyone crumple with exhaustion, but Anna Calvi showed no signs of faltering at KCRW’s “Are Friends Eclectic?” holiday show.

Amidst a mashup of genres that ranged from the country-rock of the Belle Brigade to Malaysian folkie Zee Avi to Jimmy Cliff’s legendary reggae, Calvi’s rock operatics stood out from the pack.

In all, 10 artists performed Saturday night at the Orpheum Theatre, with some acts playing short acoustic sets at the head of the stage while their plugged-in compatriots set up behind the curtain.

The Belle Brigade and indie rockers White Denim had the capacity crowd of KCRW-FM (89.9) supporters in high spirits early, while a sweet single-guitar/two-voice set from The Secret Sisters – obviously grateful for the stalwart Los Angeles public radio station – drew a round of “awwwws.”

Calvi takes the stage at the Orpheum.

In addition, Cliff and Iron and Wine were superb closers.  

But when the British/Italian Calvi came out on stage midway through the show dressed like a mysterious flamenco dancer with hair pulled tight, the lights dimmed and a fog machine clouded the air just enough for sharp laser lights to create a gothic mood.

Calvi makes that mood all the more sinister with the lyrical references to darkness and the devil on her self-titled debut album.

In fact, Calvi’s mastery of the bombastic tones of her Fender Telecaster and equally-as-powerful voice contributed to a theatrical vibe to the proceedings.

From the first thunderous strum, there was no doubt that Calvi held the audience’s rapt attention – a must considering she only had time for four songs.

While Calvi made the guitar she’s owned for at least 15 years the focus on a seductive opener, Daniel Maiden-Wood’s percussive drum efforts became more prominent with the soaring “Blackout” for the second tune. 

Multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpaz’s sighing harmonium began “Desire” after that, with Calvi’s twanging string-pulls and Maiden-Wood’s driving beat pushing the sonic tour-de-force forward.

As Calvi belted out the final lyrics to “Desire” — “You don’t have to be lost!” — there was a note of vulnerability and unrequited love that underlies several of her writings.  

By the time Calvi was ready to close with “Love Won’t Be Leaving,” one spectator shouted out “I love you!” to which the quiet Calvi offered a simple, “Thank you.”

Calvi is set to play in San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and New York City over the next two weeks, so her schedule doesn’t get much easier.

Still, Calvi demonstrated that she has the energy to blow a stage away… planes, trains and automobiles be damned. 

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