Review and photography by John Bentley

Anna Calvi is an artist who seemed to emerge fully-formed with her acclaimed debut album in 2011. Winning early endorsement from luminaries like Brian Eno and Bill Ryder-Jones, she played support gigs for the likes of Nick Cave and The Arctic Monkeys before she had even released an album. The debit album spectacularly demonstrated her abilities as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, as well as demonstrating a trend-setting grasp of style and presentation in the vein of early Roxy Music. Her third album, ‘Hunter’, was released in 2018.

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

Support this evening comes from Sam Griffiths, of York-based band The Howl and the Hum, who tonight is in solo mode. He has a powerful clear voice, opening with a quirky song about the only boy racer left on the island. His well-received set finishes with an intriguing song entitled ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’.

Sam Griffiths of The Howl and Hum, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

Today is clearly going to be an interesting gig, as Anna Calvi plays solo in the relatively small Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, a venue renowned among both performers and punters for its warmth and intimacy. There are no drums or keyboards tonight and just two electric guitars sit on stands at the back of the stage as Calvi walks on. She is immaculately turned-out, as always and looks magnificent under the spotlight as she picks up her Fender guitar and launches into ‘Rider to the Sea’, the opening instrumental from her debut album, an obvious choice for opening a solo gig. This is followed by the contrasting ‘No More Words’, a softly sung counterpoint to the intense guitar of the opener. At times the song is so whispered that you could hear a pin drop. The audience is respectfully quiet and attentive.

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

However, playing solo with no band does have its limitations, making some of Calvi’s best songs less suitable for tonight’s setlist. So unfortunately there’s no ’Desire’, with its distinctive harmonium introduction. And sometimes you feel it would be great for her band to be there to fill-out some of the songs. Nevertheless using just her versatile, wide-ranging voice and her undoubted stagecraft and guitar skills, Anna Calvi effortlessly manages to hold and captivate the sold-out Trades Club audience for her one hour set. The setlist tonight is almost exclusively taken from the debut album and from ‘Hunter’: it provides a varied set of songs from her solid body of work, highlighting the distinct progression and contrast between the songs from the first and latest albums.

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

The heat in The Trades Club really builds up on this hot July evening, but Anna Calvi looks cool throughout. As the rest of us perspire it’s rumoured that Calvi likes a steamy, sweaty atmosphere at her gigs and that the air conditioning is deliberately switched off tonight.

‘Indies or Paradise’ provides Calvi with a good opportunity to do some real guitar shredding and this continues with the riffing, blues wailing and distortion of ‘Wish’, drawing rapturous applause from the audience. This might be a venture into rock guitar-hero territory, but she pulls it off. The main set finishes with ‘Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy’, with cheers from the audience as Calvi hits the high notes.

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

The encore features the wistful ‘Eden’ from the Hunter album, plus Calvi’s peerless cover version of ‘Jezebel’, the 1950s classic made popular by Frankie Laine. Calvi’s voice soars as she really claims this rousing song as her own. Blowing the audience a kiss, Anna Calvi leaves the stage after a highly intense evening that certainly didn’t disappoint!

Setlist: Rider to the Sea; No More Words; Suzanne and I; Swimming Pool; As a Man; I’ll be Your Man; First We Kiss; Indies or Paradise; Wish; Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy. Encore: Eden; Jezebel

Anna Calvi, Trades Club Hebden Bridge

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