Caught Live: Anna Calvi @ Islington Assembley Hall

Fresh from releasing her second album, One Breath, Anna Calvi played a one-off show in the intimate setting of the Islington Assembly Hall. Before Calvi’s performance, her label mate and former member of The Coral Bill Ryder Jones took to the stage.

His solo project is far removed from his former band’s output – the quirky, psychedelic pop songs have been replaced by sombre narratives. But the new direction is by no means a bad one. His heartfelt stories play well, and although lacking enough immediacy to grab the entire crowd, they more than pay off for those willing to pay attention.

Opening with ‘Suzanne & I’ – a highlight from her eponymous debut – Calvi immediately sets the tone for the rest of the evening; soaring vocals combine with her intricate, yet at times visceral guitar to create a tense and dynamic performance – which has often seen her compared to the late Jeff buckley.

Anna Calvi 15 - Ph CFaruolo

Throughout her set, Calvi – flanked either side by her band members – casts a statuesque figure against the ornate art deco backdrop of the Islington Assembley Hall. Yet despite her imposing demeanour, Calvi is incredibly shy when talking in between songs – instead relying on her music to command the crowd.

Command it does. As the lights cascade down and the rolling drums of ‘Blackout’ creep in, Calvi’s thunderous voice takes hold of the audience’s attention – reminding us why she received the Mercury Prize nod for her debut two years ago.

Her new material sits comfortably alongside the old, with recent single ‘Eliza’ being greeted by cheers from the crowd, but ultimately with the album only a day old it’s the familiar ‘Desire’ that brings the performance to its peak.

Despite great critical reception, Calvi has remained on the periphery of main-stream success, but judging by tonight’s performance she could soon find herself at the forefront of the current explosion of female artists.

Anna Calvi will head out again on tour in February 2014, tickets are on sale now.

Photos by Carolina Faruolo.