Anna Calvi @ Bowery Ballroom – 5/25/11

With the death of LCD Soundsystem and the re-emergence of The Strokes, of late I’ve been reconnecting/running into a lot of folks from what I like to call “the good ol’ days” — people who I met through going to shows, and being in that whole scene, during the early 2000s. For those of you who are younger, you’re not going to understand this, so let me say this very plainly — when you get old, you don’t go out to parties/concerts as much, so you don’t see people randomly all that often.

In any case, I’ve noticed that a lot of these old time friends have all been mentioning to me that they love that I still have my blog, which strikes me as extremely funny. Because telling me that it’s soooo amazing that I still do my blog is basically the internet equivalent of congratulating me on walking down a flight of stairs or being able to chew solid foods (I can still do both of those things — kinda). So yeah, you definitely realize you’ve been in the game for a long time when several folks start giving you props for doing something you don’t even really consciously think about. Don’t get me wrong, I love every person who tells me that, but it’s definitely a bellweather of my continued descent into the abyss of Old.

So as some feeble attempt to somehow rid myself of that mothball-y, musky “old people smell” I’m sure I reek of at this point, I gathered up all my strength to hobble over to the Bowery Ballroom alongside fellow old timer, Melody Nelson, to check out the hot new UK rock goddess import, Anna Calvi.

Maybe The Rapture was a couple days late?

Sitting downstairs until Anna Calvi’s 11PM set time, we reminisced about how during CMJ 2002 I fell asleep on the very black leather couch upon which we were perched, waiting for the late late show by The Walkmen. As I looked around at the crowd, it was a weird mix of lithe Lissy Trullie-type hipsters, bridge and tunnel-y people, and slightly older people of obviously discerning taste. (All the trendy kids must’ve been at the Friendly Fires show at Webster Hall.) The highest ranking celeb of the night was Mr. David Byrne, who was there with daughter Malu Abeni and some of her friends.

When the time came to head upstairs, for some reason it was impossibly hot and sweaty, despite the fact that the venue was not fully packed. But as soon as the lights went down, and the fog machine kicked in, all was forgotten and I was transported into the glamorous, dramatic, and enchanting world of Anna Calvi.

Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I’ve always insisted that bands put at least some effort into their stage appearance. I’ve never demanded that people be beautiful or slim, but I truly believe having some sense of showmanship is part of the package that makes a compelling artist. (See the White Stripes, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Hives.)

She has a perma-scowl when she is singing. She’s getting her grrrr on.

You could pretty much say Ms. Calvi had me at her Robert Palmer guitar girl slicked-back hair, smoky ’80s eye makeup, and ruby red lips, and elegant black jumpsuit with rope belt detailing, but it was her piercing, spooky vocals, and blistering guitar work that truly won me over. I liken her as the British answer to St. Vincent. Both women are incredibly stylish as well as extremely capable when it comes to commanding an audience.

Ms. Calvi’s sound reflects a number of different influences. She’s often compared to PJ Harvey, due to the dark and looming elements of some of her songs, but she also incorporates the vibrant flair of flamenco-style music, but there are hints of a sunnier, croonier side, with a bit of Wall of Sound inspiration thrown in.

Towards the end of her set, Chris of Music Snobbery, must’ve saw me staring at her 4-inch heels, because he leaned over and informed me that Ms. Calvi is quite petite — somewhere in the 5-foot range.

Expect to be hearing a lot more about Anna Calvi in the coming months — she’s back in NYC for a gig at Le Poisson Rouge on July 27th.

Video of her cover of “Jezebel” made famous by Edith Piaf:


Published by Laura

I run The Modern