It may be November, but opening the bill tonight are the festively-titled Halloween, Alaska. Winning over an initially lukewarm audience, the foursome cast a spell over the small room, their Postal-Service indebted groove a refreshing antidote to today’s other so-called ‘guitar bands’. With members having previously jammed in outfits such as Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, rhe Bad Plus and Happy Apple, the group are no strangers to live shows, and this fact is transparently evident as they put in a beguiling, hypnotic performance.

A tough set to follow, then, but if ever a musician could top an evening, it would be Anna Calvi. The twenty eight year old may be visually striking, taking to the stage in a typically stylish red and black ensemble, yet this visual boldness serves only as a prelude to a set which is at turns startlingly original, eye-opening and ultimately, one of the best Belfast has seen all year.

As soon as the first bars ofthe opening number ‘Rider to the Sea’ drift across the room, a deathly hush descends on an audience enthralled by Calvi’s charisma. For charisma is abundant – she may only have released one album, but any jitters which usually accompany an artist’s fledgling shows are thankfully absent. Instead, we’re treated to an assured set, heightened by the young Londoner’s overtly theatrical leanings, to the extent that every song feels like a performance.

Disputably the highlight of the set is the wonderful ‘Blackout’; a high-tempo, rollicking little number which recalls the sound of PJ Harvey tinged with the joyful exuberance of Karen O, and is the closest thing we get to a singalong all night. Yet another gem arrives mid-set with an impromptu cover of TV on the Radio’s ‘Wolf Like Me’, Calvi’s sultry tones transforming the original song into a slow-burning epic.

As the evening draws to a close with the soaring, anthemic, ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’, audience impressions – of Calvi as a star in waiting – are cemented.

The gig may have taken place in a dingy converted chapel, slap bang in the middle of the city’s university quarter, but hanging in the air is the definite sense that all present have been privy to something very special indeed. For the moment, Anna Calvi is taking her inspiration from the greats, yet one suspects that it may not be too long until she ascends to their ranks.









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Commenting On: Empire Music Hall, Belfast, 20/11/2011 - Anna Calvi and Halloween Alaska








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