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Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Gig Review

Camera Obscura
Komedia, Brighton

Article written by Alex S - Nov 2, 2009

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura
Riddled with drugs deaths, alcohol abuse and sexually transmitted infections, it’s no wonder bands flock to Brighton. But not so Camera Obscura. They are here to see if they can rediscover the virtuous circle of love between band, music and audience that defined their last visit in 2007. Still basking in that afterglow Tracyanne was ebullient as she flounced on stage. Yes, Tracyanne. Flounced. Big smiles, words tumbling forth about high expectations. Yet a muddy opening with My Maudlin Career, followed by a clammy Swans had Tracyanne ruefully commenting ‘Well, it is a comedy club’. By the end of the third song the dark clouds had gathered. Tracyanne slowly but inexorably retracting into her shell. As the night wore on it looked so painful; she seemed so vulnerable. She twiddled distractedly with her earpiece; first in, then out, then back in, then... head down, mumbled ‘thank you’s’ and uncomfortable silences. Some in the crowd shuffled uneasily, waiting for ‘something to happen’. For me it was witnessing the agony of a genius struggling to play lead in all its visceral horror. When she has it bad, Tracyanne must be the most ill at ease front person I have ever witnessed. This is double the pain, given the pulchritudinous songs she writes.

When some write about Camera Obscura live they seem fixated on a lack of ‘smiles’. Ironic that people who condemn being judged through a viewfinder of ‘twee’ cardigans and hair slides should choose to judge the quality of Camera Obscura by how ‘happy they appear’ on stage. No one complained about Lydon or Brown not smiling. Tracyanne sings about love, lust, fear and rejection for Christ sake. Perhaps there isn’t much to smile about when bassist Gavin looks like he’s done a 10 stretch for killing someone in a Glasgow pub brawl. Bless, he didn’t even get a mike. And it was difficult for Tracyanne’s tender voice to cope with the 60’s wall of sound evidenced in the last two albums and the main content of tonight’s performance. Thank god for the love of keyboard player Carey, who smiled, laughed and gainfully tried to envelope Tracyanne through her emotional frailty.

Tracyanne’s smile is like a precious stone. A thing of rare beauty. And finally, two songs from the end, it lit up the stage. Out of nowhere Tracyanne connected with a group of dancers on her left; Lloyd, I’m ready to be Heartbroken fizzed and crackled as a result. Tracyanne was thrilled, abashed and amused all at once. She beamed whilst band and audience relaxed. Camera Obscura followed this up with a bone shaking If looks could kill only to leave us just as we were connecting. Thankfully they returned. Tracyanne was in the zone now, mocking the crowd for calling out the names of ‘old songs’ – Eighties Fan was the only song played from the first two albums - and playfully lambasting her band for ignoring our plaintive cries. James was tender and bittersweet, and then the signature Razzle Dazzle Rose and it was over.

Camera Obscura is an enigma. On vinyl they have honed a sound that renders them the finest proponents of female led melancholic pop in a generation. The latest album is quite magnificent. Live it can sometimes feel like being invited to watch someone unravel on stage, for your viewing pleasure.


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