Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Camera Obscura, And About Bloody Time Too!

Camera Obscura - The False Contender
Live at the Plaza Club, Vancouver, 24 July 2006
Without further ado, I give you Camera Obscura. Well, that's not quite true. Allow me a bit of ado. You see, Dear Friends, I had fully intended to post much earlier on this most excellent gig, but other things got in the way. Like children. Washing up. Weekends away. Other shiny gegaws that caught my eye and forced their way up my posting priority list. So now, three weeks on, I ask: should I even bother? Will people care? Or is Camera Obscura yesterday's news and now we're onto Brazilian Girls, Ratatat, and Viva Voce? Besides, already some of the finer details are fading from my memory. Or maybe that's due to being walloped in the head by a flying Ryan Adored at the Buzzcocks gig.
Whatever. I'm going to do it. I said I would, and I will. If you don't care, please feel free to hide behind parked cars and roll tumbleweed down my street, whistling like the cruel desert wind...
First up were Shapes & Sizes, a moderately buzzed-about Victoria BC band that recently signed to Asthmatic Kitty, home of Sufjan Stevens. Now I will admit that the sound during their set was mixed most poorly, but I must say I found their performance difficult. Much Deerhoofian sound bricolage (Editor: did that sound poncy to you, readers?). Nothing inherently wrong with that. However, the overall effect was akin to a salad with romaine and chard and avocado and blue cheese and smoked oysters and olives and ranch dressing: tasty individual ingredients, but all mixed together a wee bit hard on the stomach.
And then the Obscuras takes to the stage. Goodness, Traceyanne Campbell certainly looks the epitome of dour. Like the severest of school mistresses. Unsmiling. Clad in a most un-rockish purple belted dress, thick black hose, and sensible flat shoes. Casting serious glances at her bandmates as they set up. Fiddling with the most amazing baby blue guitar. The blokes all look older than I had expected. About my age, maybe (tee hee). Dressed in sensibly smart jeans and Gappish collared shirts. A final look round - everyone in place? And they're off...
Straight into the new album, starting (if I recall correctly) with 'Come Back Margaret.' I know I'm in for a treat as those wee hairlets stand to attention on the nape of my neck and my skin puckers up with goosebumps. Spider sense a-tingling in the bestest possible way. They are a fine and fine-tuned band, playing tightly and fluidly - and yes, that is possible. I am particlarly impressed by Dear Nigel, who throughout the set provides an incredible array of miscellaneous percussion (tambourine, bells, wooden blocks) and trumpetry with meticulous precision. Such loyalty.
The majority of the songs are from 'Let's Get Out Of This Country,' and that album's evocative wistfulness is reproduced with warmth and verve. Oh but Dear Traceyanne, how can a voice so sweet come from a mouth so stern (Editor: dontcha think she's probably tired about everyone crapping on about how dour she appears?)? Ah, but there is finally a hint of a smile. Wry comments about injuries on tour. And at the end of 'Let's Get Out Of This Country' she playfully meanders into the chorus of Paul Simon's 'Call Me Al.' There we go.
And then 'Country Mile.' Pure bliss. The audience at rapt attention. Well, apart from the two clods who push their way past two girls to the front thirty seconds into the song, stand right in front of Traceyanne, and proceed to babble loudly about this and that. Then they have the audacity to request 'Books Written For Girls,' to which a most irritated Traceyanne replies "Why should we bother? You'll just talk right the way through it." Applause. Hoots. Lots of it. The clods implore. Traceyanne sticks firm and moves on. The clods shrink to about two inches tall. Abso-f**cking-lutely righteous.
The set ends, but it doesn't end there. The band comes back for the obligatory encore, and Tracey declares that she feels bad for being "a bitch" and that she wouldn't be able to sleep at night if they didn't play 'Books.' And so they do, beautifully, in spite of health warnings that they hadn't played it live in ages. Pure graciousness and class. Then another couple of songs, and it is really over.
Dear Friends, it was lovely, and all the more so since it was the first concert Dearest Wife and I had attended together since a Billy Bragg gig in London at least seven years ago. Thank you, Camera Obscura, the pleasure was all mine.
I leave you with a selection of songs played that fine evening that are not off the current album, including the object of controversy, 'Books Written For Girls.' Also, as you probably noticed, at the top of the post is a clip from the very show I attended, thoughtfully posted by someone on You Tube. So click away, and you too can pretend that you're right there with me and the missus. If you're so inclined.
I now await the tumbleweed...
Camera Obscura - Suspended From Class (buy here or here)
Camera Obscura - Eighties Fan (buy here or here)
Camera Obscura - Books Written For Girls (as above)


A. B. Chairiet said...

Aw, no tumbleweeds from me...I liked this post, and was quite looking forward to it (as I mentioned all but two seconds ago...).

I love Camera Obscura. Definitely one of my most favorite bands I've heard so far this year. I think Books written for Girls is actually my favorite these days, but now thinking of the jackasses who requested it, and annoying the obviously kick-ass lead singer...well, that does bring it down a bit. ;)

I'm glad you and the wife had a lovely time, and a great show. :)

Thanks for writing about it, Fil.

Happy Wednesday,
~ Ash

Ed said...

I love this band! Let's Get Out Of This Country is my favourite album this year. Glad they are getting some good coverage.

Ed (

unknown said...

As usual some very fine words my friend.

Traceyanne's mannerisms captured ever-so perfectly.

I think she is just quite fussy about things (the 'sound' and arrangements etc) and a little bit of a worrier as well, especially live.

bryce said...

I love TAC's dourness.

It is so totally appropriate.

Have you seen her deadpan her way through the Lloyd video? Priceless.


Rachel said...

Oh bravo!!!! Such a wonderful post dear FiL and the YouTube Vid was the cherry on top, indeed.

I agree about the Shapes & Sizes salad, their sound just simply doesn't sit well. Such a shame...

I am sure S&S up against the diligent perfected Obscuras was not a fair match up by any means...

FiL, there is no tumble weed here, only a bunch of Armadillos standing at attention applauding your fantastic Obscura review.


FiL said...

Dearest Ash, fret not - the jhackasses were silent during the encore and it was magical. And thank you as ever for your kind words.

Dearest Bryce, indeed, the Lloyd video is fantastic! TAC's expression contrasts hilaaariously with the rest of the video's cheesiness...

Dearest Rachel, yes, I think the matchup was sub-par. Probably some label drone's idea. And thank you, Armadillos, for your kindness!

Dearest Colin, I think you are absolutely right. I got the sense that TAC was so intent on getting things right, and that probably also fuelled her response to the clods.

FiL said...

Oh, sorry I missed you, Ed. Yes, I'm glad they're getting wider coverage. They deserve it!