Back in February, State was craning our necks in disbelief along with Conor O’Brien, The Ambience Affair and a host of visibly hot-and-bothered couples during an evening in the Workman’s Club (watch the State video by Stephen Mogerly and read a review from Dara Higgins). Anna Calvi’s debut Irish performance was the stuff of mythology; a red-lit séance, an illicit velvetine swingers club and a performance of Buckley-esque charisma all in one. The test tonight is whether Calvi’s lustful occult rock can be replicated with such intensity in the broad dimensions of Vicar St, especially with the notoriously chatty Dublin audience. All they care about is that they have made it along. Not this time will they have to hear from all and sundry about how ‘amazing’ she was, no sir-ee.
When Ms Calvi slinks on stage with drummer Daniel Maiden-Wood and harmonium/percussionist Mally Harpaz, the cheer is somewhat restrained and anxious. The reverbed clang of a Telecaster string morphs dramatically into ‘Rider To The Sea’. Traps are shut and the air is being sucked out of the room gradually. The exhale arrives by way of Calvi’s ruby-red lips sighing and shooping on ‘No More Words’ and then belting and snarling through ‘Blackout’. The latter gallops away triumphantly, but we’re not completely sure that the production’s gimmicky jumping lights suit her.
She hasn’t much to say apart from a startled squeak about what a lovely audience we are. Instead, she concentrates on emitting a potent femme fatale aura like during her cover of Elvis’s ‘Surrender’, when breathlessness suddenly gives way to an operatic climax that makes lips tremble. At such times Calvi makes Rihanna look like a builder. While the cover of TV on the Radio’s ‘Wolf Like Me’ and her deliciously western take on Edith Piaf’s ‘Jezebel’ are important parts of the night, her own songwriting is to be prized. A whole James Bond film could be written around ‘Suzanne And I’’s primal pomp, and ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ is a Transylvanian love letter being torn up by tormented guitar lacerations. When it gets around to encore time, it is clear some in the audience aren’t handling the intensity so well. Calvi glides back out, her guitar slithers on to her shoulder and ‘The Devil’ oozes out from the stage. And with that, she finishes them.
Photos: Damien McGlynn.