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Anna Calvi is a name which everyone should be made aware of - an accomplished and extremely talented singer-songwriter, who studied violin and guitar during her pubescent period, a perfect singing voice emerged in her late teens. Inspired by a diverse selection of music and artists, which range from the operatic Maria Callas, flamenco, through to Captain Beefheart, and the Rolling Stones. Hence her ability to appear both classical and rock n’ roll at the same time, its just something which works. Earlier this year she was one of the nominees for The Mercury Prize for best album, with her acclaimed self-titled debut album, released back in January. Calvi has been hailed by Eno "as the best thing since Patti Smith", she is here to save us from the monotonous X Factor, commercially driven music and overblown, egocentric pop stars. So do yourself a favour and go listen to something original, here is the full album, better still buy it!

So tonight the demure and petite, half Italian, diva makes a return to Manchester, she is gracing us with her presence at the impressive Cathedral, for an intimate show, certainly a classy venue for this style of music and one that is bursting with a cross section of ages, at this sell out event. The Cathedral is a venue of great historical importance, and tonight resonating with a commemorative performance enough to leave the Almighty in high spirits. The Red Hot Chill Peppers are playing down the road at the MEN Arena, but I have no qualms about the show I’d rather be watching tonight.

Halloween Alaska: Support band

After having secured our front row slot, a short wait till the obligatory support act opened the show after a little introduction by none other than the Vicar. Halloween, Alaska the Minnesota quartet entered the stage, and offered up their electronic, melodic sounds, which flooded the Church with excellent drumming, keyboards and expertise experimental guitar playing but somewhat drowning out the vocals. The drummer also seemed to be bathed in a flood of light but not much on the singer, or the rest of the band, but then with many stood waiting for the Lady herself, it just felt like such a long wait in the darkness. These Guys are on their fourth album with ‘All Night the Calls Came In - maybe you want to check them out.

The Cathedral was filled to the max and the anticipation building within these hallowed walls. With nebulous lighting and Gothic background, the flamenco sounds from the Fender strike up a powerful blast on the album opener, ‘Rider To The Sea’. Anna appeared, with her hair scraped from her face in dramatic chignon, clad in her signature matador style outfit of flaming red blouse, with jewelled epaulettes, matching lipstick, heavy black kohl eyes, complete with towering heels and high waisted black trousers, She is accompanied by musicians Daniel Maiden-Wood on drums and Mally Harpaz who is a multi- talented instrumentalist, they both hold their own in capturing the electrifying musical accompaniment to Anna Calvi's tremendous guitar skills.

‘No More Words’, is next on the list, hypnotising us with her quiet, yet longing vocals, plus we see exactly what an expert she is on the fret board. ‘First We Kiss’ sings of a passionate embrace between lovers, which starts off as a low moan and rages along to an ecstatic climax. ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ unleashes the haunting surf guitar solo, and wails of unbridled fervour. When she plays my personal favourite track ‘Blackout’ its gripping and captivating, certainly a tour de force. 

When it comes to performing Anna throws out all her insecurities and unleashes intense emotions, she howls, snarls and gently seduces, throwing herself into the music, and vocals which ring out clear, and sharp like a precious diamond. A woman with piercing eyes, lost in her own sensual world, both strong and commanding, executing her songs with precision and heightened drama. This is explosive music to the ears, the show has all the elements of everything musical you could wish for, she sings and plays from the heart, entrenched and bewitched by her own demons. She doesn't speak much at all whilst on stage, but would that spoil the mystic?

The audience are mesmerised as she weaves her songs with all the flavours of flamenco, blues, rock and soul, intertwined with stories of great longing, romance, loneliness and desire. There is no denying there is a certain dark force at work here and we are not just talking about the stage lighting, which wasn't quite up to scratch, however it did offer a dramatic, and atmospheric attribute. Throughout many of the songs you could almost hear a pin drop, especially when she sang 'In Morning Light' the odd cough, or click of the camera could be heard. When Anna sings a cappella everyone is attentive, at times her voice is merely a whisper, and we hang onto every single syllable. It's a captivating performance, understated and elegant. Appreciation coming from the audience is in abundance, knowing they have witnessed an extraordinary performer, and this is only the beginning for Miss Calvi.

As a final coup de grace, Anna offered up Edith Piaf’s notable 'Jezebel' a dazzling end to her performance tonight. If you failed to fall head over heels in love with Anna tonight, seduced by her voice, her androgynous beauty, mesmerised by her outstanding guitar wizardry, then I'm afraid you are beyond help. I can't think of a single female currently on the music scene who could have the same electrifying impact, and I simply have no one to compare this songstress to. Not only does she stroke, pluck, and caress the guitar like a lover, she can play as good as any dirty rock n roll'er, with a voice to melt the hardest of hearts.

As we all passed slowly through the Gothic arches, stained glass windows and huge ceilings in this revered house of God, I knew I had witnessed something of a spellbinding, ecclesiastical nature, watching a true, original artist who had simply stunned Manchester into silence this evening.

Review/photos by Mel