Based in UCLA’s beautiful Royce Hall, Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA) is the university’s public center for the presentation and advancement of the contemporary performing arts. Part of the 2013-2014 season, singer/songwriter/guitarists Anna Calvi and Chelsea Wolfe performed their own sets in front of a well-dressed, moderately-sized crowd in the architecturally-pleasing building.
Anna Calvi took the stage first, in high-rise black pants, simple black heels, a lipstick-red blouse and her hair, as always, tied neatly in a bun. Hailing from London, Calvi recently released her sophomore album One Breath to very positive reviews. She is a woman of few words while on stage, muttering an occasional “thank you” in between songs, but she is a force to be reckoned with while performing. Her voice is incredibly powerful and watching her slay her Fender(s) is an absolute must-see. There wasn’t a straying eye in the room during “Cry” when Calvi ravished her guitar and also while drummer Alex Reeves played his drums, shook a maraca and served as backup vocals. Multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpaz and keyboardist Glenn Callaghan (who could also be considered a multi-instrumentalist) played each note with sincerity and often switched places on stage.
The acoustics in Royce Hall were fantastic. Literally every breath could be heard, which was great during the performances of “Carry Me Over,” a song that tends to be quiet in some parts and in “Sing To Me,” a quiet hymn with a lot of high notes.
“It’s great to be back in LA,” she said before leaving us with “Love Won’t Be Leaving.” Having previously performed at the Troubadour in LA, a much smaller, mostly standing room only venue with less sophisticated acoustics, this performance was a treat in comparison.
Chelsea Wolfe has released three well-received albums in the last three years. Originally from Sacramento, Wolfe is known for producing what is called “drone-metal-art-folk.” Her albums contain elements of electronica, indie rock, acoustic rock, folk and even gothic black metal, and her voice is haunting and incredibly versatile. She took the stage wearing a long, flowing pink top that fell to her feet, a long white silky pullover and barely-noticeable black pants. On stage with Ben Chisholm (keys), Kevin Dockter (guitar), Dylan Fujioka (drums) and Andrea Calderon and Ezra Buchla on violins, her set was dynamic and engaging. Royce Hall allowed for every note and echo to be heard, no matter how soft. Performances ranged from loud and booming to quiet and and simple-like (although nothing is simple in a Chelsea Wolfe performance), hearing nothing but a soft piano and Wolfe’s voice. Wolfe’s body language on stage was emotional and very in sync with the music.
The opening of Wolfe’s performance began with flashing lights and a thunderous introduction from the band, which was the same way it ended: She plugged in her acoustic for a performance of “Lone” and briskly left the stage when she was through playing, leaving the band to end the performance dramatically. Wolfe was, of course, wooed back on stage by the audience for an encore.
“I love you,” she said to the audience halfway through her encore. “This is like the most awkward show ever. It’s like a sea of darkness. I can’t see anybody. It’s very weird. But it’s a beautiful place.” Then she switched from her acoustic to an electric to play out the final minutes of the set.
Anna Calvi and Chelsea Wolfe both had such wonderful performances that at times the audience wondered if something was pre-recorded. But then they would notice that a drummer or a violinist would be singing backup or a keyboardist would be playing the maracas to create sounds that they could have sworn was made with a computer.
Anna Calvi Set List
Suzanne and I
Sing To Me
I’ll Be Your Man
Piece By Piece
Carry Me Over
Love Won’t Be Leaving