Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra

credit: Eoin Carey

Mercury nominee is near perfect in this orchestral Hub Sessions show

Plenty has been written and said about Anna Calvi's soaring, beautiful, operatic vocals. What's discussed less frequently is her phenomenal skills as a guitar player. She's an exquisite guitarist – at one point, the stage lights reflects on her guitar so neatly that it looks like it's literally beaming light.

That radiation of pure talent is certainly what most of this audience feel. Calvi's gig is part of the EIF's Hub Sessions series, a strand that seems to be attempting to attract a younger audience to the Festival, with orchestral-tinged gigs from more 'popular' artists. And tonight, a small handful of the audience's more silver-haired spectators make a very quiet, polite exodus a few songs in.

Perhaps they were lured in by the presence of Heritage Orchestra in the show's title. But the loud, swaggering twang of Calvi's electric guitar alongside her excellent band to her right and the Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley, to her left, is likely to be a sharp shock to the average EIF concert-goer.

Calvi's on top form tonight, the first of her three gigs. Her voice cuts through the crystal clear silence of this very well-behaved, attentive, seated audience, some of whom are clearly itching to get up and move. She presents a few wonderful, slightly stripped-back and orchestrally-enriched takes on her more popular material, from a choral version of 'Eliza', and a 'Desire' that's doubling over with joy, to a raspy, near-whispered cover of 'Fire' that's more Bruce Springsteen than the Pointer Sisters.

But while Calvi might be near perfect, the gig itself has plenty of flaws. For such a small venue, the lighting – though impressive in concept – is over-enthusiastic. After nearly every number, the lights come up on the audience. It's a visual punctuation that ruins the intimacy of Calvi's performance, as well as the intimacy the Hub Sessions is trying to create as a strand.

And though her music certainly suits the addition of an orchestra (Calvi played the violin before she picked up a guitar), the stage feels a little overcrowded. That's especially evident when Calvi is on stage alone, and she and her guitar are more than enough to keep us entirely enthralled. Still, it's a bewitching evening and a great indicator of future directions for the more popular side of the EIF's musical programme.

The Hub, 473 2000, until 20 Aug, 10.30pm, £25 (£12).

Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra

  • 4 stars

Critically acclaimed star Anna Calvi gives a special concert with the innovative and eclectic Heritage Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley. Famed for her operatic song, virtuoso guitar playing and theatrical stage presence, in this concert Calvi’s distinctive songs sound quite different. New orchestral versions of…