Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chelsea Wolfe/Anna Calvi, November 16 at Royce Hall

I heard Anna Calvi the first time on KCRW and her voice seduced me right away.  An amazing, powerful, breathy voice will always get me, but they're rare.  Carla also had her on her radar (Calvi's "The Devil" was the first in some playlist Carla had on her phone to use as an alarm so for months the opening chords of that song was what we woke up to) but we found out too late about her Troubadour show a while before.  We kept looking out for her doing another show in town but when it was announced she was doing a show opening for Chelsea Wofle we didn't jump on it.  We generally keep our Saturday nights open and most of what we do on those are last-minute, and we weren't necessarily so eager to see her have to do an opening slot.  But the day of the show we found we had that night free so we got second-hand tickets and went.  Carla had gone to UCLA so it was a chance for her to revisit the campus and show me around, so the night had a bit of extra magic for us.  We liked Chelsea Wolfe enough -- we'd seen her at FYF and she was fine but we didn't jump to get her albums -- but we were there for Calvi, no matter how truncated her set turned out to be.  (She was touring for her second album, One Breath).  As it turns out, the show could have actually been a co-headlining thing, since they both seemed to get in a full set, but Wolfe got the later slot because it was her home-town.  Fair enough.  Royce Hall was a wonderful venue for both -- a place known for its precise acoustics but only infrequently hosting anything approaching a rock show -- so it showcased their voices and music well, but it was a space too large for even their combined L.A. fan-bases could fill.  The place was mostly empty, probably the most sparsely-attended show in a larger venue (read: not a bar) that I've ever been to.  But if the performers knew they were playing to an audience too small for the place, they didn't show it, and they still filled it with great sounds.  Both acts go toward gothy chamber pop, a little more goth for Wolfe, a little more chamber for Calvi, both of them not quite pop but not really all rock either.  A bit difficult to classify, but neither have need for any of those concepts.  Wolfe got some elevation on the back of Florence's astounding mass popularity though both have their own unique things.  Though maybe most of the audience was there to see Wolfe, Calvi was the star of the show for us.  In the studio she can tweak her voice or at least let it rest when she needs but live she had to put it all out there, and she did.  Every song was like it was sent to the back row (or at least to the balcony, where we were) and she sang like it was the only show she's ever done.  Only a foolish band would try to top a voice like that, and it would be her greatest crime to not commit to it wholeheartedly, and she put all the power she had into it.  Even without the crowd that both acts deserve, they at least got the appropriate venue, maybe the best place in L.A. for them (though the Bowl would work too).  If that was their peak then they might not get to play that kind of space in town again, but for that night it was exactly the right place.  And for the record: It might have looked like I had fallen asleep (the only time I would have ever done that at a seated show), but with eyes closed and relaxed there in that spacious place, it was easy to drift into the dark magic of those lush sounds.

Chelsea Wolfe's set-list:
"Feral Love"
"We Hit a Wall"
"House of Metal"
"Tracks (Tall Bodies)"
"The Waves Have Come"
"Pale on Pale"

"Echo" (Rudimentary Peni cover)

Anna Calvi's set-list:
"Suzanne & I"
"Sing to Me"
"I'll Be Your Man"
"Piece by Piece"
"Carry Me Over"
"The Devil"
"Love Won't Be Leaving"