Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Camera Obscura @ KCLSU

The venue is atrocious, or, rather, the crowd should be ashamed of themselves. They talk all the way through the really rather decent support, Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck, whose orchestral indie-pop is only a tad too twee to command, and then eke their dull murmur for the duration of the headline set. But it all becomes irrelevant as Tracyanne Campbell leads Camera Obscura into a dreamlike segue – one which in part, I don’t want to break down.

But alas, for those that haven’t seen Camera Obscura live, it’s necessary. The band don’t enter the stage until gone ten as there’s some dodgy techery going on – and it takes them around one and a half songs to get into their stride. They don’t look like they’re having fun for only the first ten or so minutes, but after that, the mood soars. It becomes a ‘best of’ set of sorts, tracks from each of their albums getting an airing. Material from Let’s Get Out Of This Country gets the biggest reception, the brush kit and twee march of ‘The False Contender’ and the abundant drums on ‘If Looks Could Kill’ framing the instruments in their most all-out, superlative form.
Equally, the finicky, intricate guitars on ‘Teenager’ impress – not knowing quite what to expect live, it’s a lovely surprise that the rhythms are so free. The feel of the music is, in a way, much more contained on record. Yet on stage, there’s the attention to detail as well as the general tendency to just go with it, let go. Or something.

Be it the tiny inflections and unison handclaps on ‘Come Back Margaret’, or that true sense of warmth on ‘Eighties Fan’, it’s unimaginable to think that anyone here in the crowd hasn’t been reduced to a drooling fangirl by the halfway stage. Traceyanne’s remarks, just after ‘Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken’, that she feels like she’s on a boat – only in the sense that everyone here is part of some overriding, unified sense of presence. The casual fans take heed as soon as the organ chimes begin for that song, a real sense of magic.

Onto the new material – the band have been recording in Sweden, apparently, and if anyone puts the videos on YouTube, they’ll be in for a beating (not so apparently). ‘French Navy’ (“about the colour”) isn’t so much of a departure, more a massive leap forward – the reverie for the past is whipped up with some Orange Juice jangle on this surfy little number. And ‘Swans’ is, quite simply, vintage Camera Obscura – somewhere between a torch anthem and the theme to the closing scene in a B-movie, one to lose yourself in.

The new stuff is extremely exciting, that’s for sure, and save for the mid-set lethargy of ‘A Sister's Social Agony’, it’s a super performance. And the thumping, spasmodic, inner Mogwai creeping out of set-closer ‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’ sets off the post-gig vibrations perfectly – this writer walks away with a romantic fuzz all around her, following her for the next few days and more. A glorious, luminescent romanticism that could probably exist of its own accord, worryingly.

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