Thursday, May 12, 2011

Anna Calvi / Grouplove / Big Deal @ The Academy, Wednesday 11th May 2011

Bundled together under the banner of the NME Emerge Kwik Fit Birds Eye Fox’s Biscwits Go Campare Moonpig Radar Tour tonight’s bill sees a veritable pick n' mix bag of musical genres kicking off with the fragile, emotionally intense Big Deal, a boy girl duo with a penchant for fuzzed up guitars and (judging by the lyrics) fucked up relationships. Thanks to the subdued lighting they both appear as shadowy figures, perfectly suiting the sparse guitars and frequently, almost whispered words. A post rock slacker Sonny and Cher for the You Tube generation.

After the twisted pre and post coital sounds of Big Deal, Grouplove hit you round the chops like a sock full of custard (which is more pleasant than it sounds). Like Fleetwood Mac jamming with The Pixies they’ve got a thrashy West Coast rock thang going on and an album’s worth of classic sounding tracks that’ll go down a storm on the festival circuit. It’s music for driving down the highway, partying on the beach, chillin’ out next to the embers of a campfire and the crowd seemed to ‘group love’ it as much as the band seemed to enjoy playing. Co lead vocalists Hannah and Christian in particular risked life and limb by thrashing around on the stage, frequently missing Justin Lee Collins lookalike bassist Sean by millimetres. Incredibly tonight was the first anniversary of the debut gig, a fact touchingly celebrated by Christian in the intro to ‘Don’t Say Oh Well’, a rousingly ramshackle tale of the band’s early days.

I tired of writing down the best tracks ‘cos that was pretty much all of ‘em but particular mention must got to ‘Naked Kids’ (be careful for how you search that one online people) and 2010 single ‘Colours’ great as anything Black Francis and co ever came up with.

Anna Calvi’s soaring, gothic flecked vocals have rapidly become lodged in the hearts and minds of many a discerning listener in the last few months, cemented by an appearance on Sir Jools Holland's career making Later show. Described by Eno as “the best thing since Patti Smith” she comes across as some kind of towering dominatrix of sound on the clips I’d it came as something of a surprise when a Kylie Minogue-ish figure wandered onto the stage and took up position by the mic. She just seemed so tiny...delicate even. Comparisons with the sparrow like Piaf are perhaps going a little far but, once she begins to sing, you undoubtedly get that same sense of wonder that Parisians experienced back in the 1930’s..."Oh mon dieu, sacre bleu...avez vous un baguette s'il vous plait", which, roughly translated means "how the hell does a voice that HUGE come out of someone so small?"...probably. From the second she opened her mouth on opening number ‘Suzanne and I’ that same thought keeps spinning in your head. That track’s a ready made Bond theme by the way, almost out Bassey-ing anything Shirley ever did. It sets the tone for a set that dripped emotion and, somehow, the fact that she’s currently unable to play guitar due to damaging her wing...sorry...hand...I got the feeling she was able to inject a lot more feeling into her vocals than when she’s trying to combine the two roles. She’s not just a vocal belter though. She’s more than capable of reigning in the horsepower and singing in a voice that’s as light as a Summer’s breeze like on the seductive ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ for instance. Blending 50’s rock n’roll with her cover of the Elvis classic Surrender, torch songs in the vein of Marc Almond at his best and a little pop sensibility to make it all a bit more accessible it was a dazzling performance. Appropriately enough the encore was Jezebel, one of Piaf’s greatest songs. It’s unfair to compare the two directly, Piaf’s life story adds a certain je ne sais quoi to her version that’s hard to top...unless Anna plans on a few affairs, three near fatal car crashes, a battle with drugs and booze and popping her clogs at 47 that is...which I wouldn’t recommend. But I just can’t imagine another singer in the world right, apart from Anna, now capable of doing that song justice. Can you? Tres formidable.

PS: If Anna ever reads this how about a Jacques Brel cover? I reckon you’d own If You Go Away...

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