Edinburgh International Festival music review: Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Fiona Shepherd.
The start of this concert is a bit like an awkward date. Members of the hip Heritage Orchestra file onstage in their daring leather dresses or trendy facial hair, anticipating their dangerous liaison with rock’n’roll. From the other side of the wings, the rock group emerge, fronted by a tiny, timid woman standing nervously at the microphone.
No one says a word and there’s not the slightest background noise to break the ice. And then, from the back, a heavenly choral coo to anoint the partnership, followed by Anna Calvi’s rich voice, rising and falling with delicious drama, the dusky twang of a very loud electric guitar, and Calvi caught in the spotlight, like the fearsome gunslinger in the saloon doorway.
There is more than a little Morricone about this sonic scene, with the choir and the ravishing, romantic strings floating and supporting Calvi the silky siren on Sing to Me.
There is great control as well as cathartic release in her performance, with much for this audience of committed Calvinists to revel in, including a potent, powerhouse take on Bruce Springsteen’s Fire and her storming rendition of Jezebel, that fabulous old Frankie Laine song, with its galloping drums and Calvi’s vocals rising to a primal pitch.
She has her own catalogue of femme fatales to add to the torrid mix. There is dramatic yearning in her delivery as the strings and the drums battle it out on Suzanne and I, with Mally Harpaz’s harmonium somewhat sidelined, while Eliza is enhanced by the eerie polyphony of the choir.
The rock torch song Love Won’t Be Leaving is an exotic beast with flamenco inflections and an economical burst of heavy metal fretwork – guitar is Calvi’s first love and she gives it due attention with a couple of stormy featured solos over the course of this commanding display.
The Hub, until 20 Aug / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 20 August 2015
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