Filed under: live, review | Tags: charlotte richardson andrews, genderful, little annie, live at bush hall, paul wallfisch
Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch
Bush Hall, London •••••
November 23, 2009
Annie Bandez has had more than one stage name during her 30 year career, but it’s under her current guise of Little Annie that she took to the stage at West London’s Bush Hall for a one-off performance on Monday night. Diminutive in stature yet physically striking, this legendary US artist counts theatre, film, art and of course music in her rich, prolific history. The Yonkers native was soaking up the seedy, decadent Beat art and abstract sounds of New York back in the ’70s, but it took relocating to the UK in the ’80s and a fortuitous hook up with experimentalist punks Crass to really set things off for Bandez, then known as Annie Anxiety. Living with the philosophical crust-punks accelerated her own writing, which eventually manifested into a regular support slot for the band. From there, she went on to work with bands and producers across the board, including dub stalwart Adrian Sherwood and his Dub Syndicate, electronica artists Coil, members of Sugar Hill Gang and, more recently, Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.
Annie’s love of saloon divas and cabaret crooners has twined this eclectic, leftfield body of work with a distinctly jazzy lilt, giving her a blues house chanteuse style that evokes the best of bygone eras and re-awakens sleeping muses and old gods – a Pandora’s box that was split wide open during this performance. Accompanied by the expert piano stylings of collaborator Paul Wallfisch (of rock outfit Botanica), Annie glittered and shimmied across the stage, gloriously flamboyant in a sequined jacket and five-inch leopard print stilettos. From her physicality alone, it was clear that Little Annie is a natural force, the kind of genuine artist that will create, almost by default, with every breath. There was a palpable, awe-infused atmosphere among the intimate audience as her grand, whiskey-flecked poetics shone out with a chipped-crystal aesthetic amid the venues opulent chandeliers and red velvet curtain (on which Annie unceremoniously wiped her beer-soaked hand at one point, to much applause).
Her numbers – part sung, part spoken and part growled – melted with all the unpredictability and joy of life’s own tumultuous rhythms. From the ugly, tragic and lost to the beautiful, inspirational and poetic, Annie evokes all the survivor glory of Piaf and the queer vivacity of Dietrich with a truly singular vocal prowess. Turning autobiography into art, she blends her own narratives in with more familiar, mainstream artists; Tina Turner’s ‘Private Dancer’, Nat King Cole’s ‘Smile’ and Nina Simone’s ‘If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ were all delivered in her rasping drawl, while her very own heartbreaker ‘Because You’re Gone’ was almost unbearably moving. Though her self-conscious workings are unafraid to lace tragedy with a wry, winking streak of comedy – her performance of ‘Strange Love’ was broken more than once for some sniggering banter with Wallfisch and the audience – her emotive moments are achingly real and resonated throughout the audience.
This one-off performance was a perfect harvest-style treat to be enjoyed before the hibernation that will eventually see the release of Annie and Paul’s next album Genderful in March. An autobiography is also expected, and should be a recommended read based not just on Annie’s staggering career, but also on the merits of her hilarious, between-song anecdotes, one of which included an ex beau whom she recalled with loving humour as a rather useless thief, a man whose ribbon-wrapped gift that turned out to be yeast infection cream was not a rude present but rather “the most expensive thing in the store that he could steal, and therefore by his definition, the most romantic”.
Little Annie has lived, and it shows in both her voice and narratives. Musically, she’s not only in the right place at the right time, but seemingly there before the mainstream, and leaving just when everyone else catches on. Until March…
Charlotte Richardson Andrews
Photo by Javier Díaz, used under Creative Commons Licence.
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