Live Review

Camera Obscura, Shepherd’s Bush Empire

There isn’t a hair or chord out of place.

Where the fragile sands of musical time have, some 50 years ago now, given way from the hit singles of pop queens past to the market of haricuts and celebrity hang-ups, there needs to be a very special space reserved for Camera Obscura. They are quite un-band like - in the way that they’re a band that fully embrace the idea of musicianship – gentle wood block here, a flurry of 6 string there, whilst wearing very demure clothing, albeit with a shock of red hair atop Lindsey Boyd on the keys.

‘My Maudlin Career’ is 2009’s first slice of proper Bacharach inspired pop, springing life into dense orchestration, where tonight it is remarkable to see seven take to the stage in order to concoct such blissfully airy noise. They start off with the title track, awash with double tambourines and the gentle music-box twinkle of piano. Its giant strides of trumpet threaten to breach the peace, but the minute Tracyanne Campbell unpresses her lips, the entire Empire is hers.

Campbell has a vast gift for emotion without breaking their tunefulness, whereby “Said I didn’t love you / I told a lie” is sung with innocence and a magical voice. ‘Honey In The Sun’ is sweet, chiming, 60s pop, once more snuggled by brass with a driving rhythm that is surely derived from Phil Spector’s legacy of work with The Ronnettes. Their gift of the galloping rhythm blushes on most of ‘My Maudlin Career’ in some ingenuous school girl crush way, beautifully.

For the new album’s central weepy moment, the stage is drenched in a soft yellow hue and ‘James’ reels out its break up crackle, where the Scottish accent somehow makes it feel even more sentimental. ‘The Sweetest Thing’ meanwhile, a little later in the set, comes off as the best Dusty Springfield style pop record of the last decade; it has the careless waltz, swooping vocal line and jangle-clap rhythmic core.

Lap steel is brought out for some dramatically high pitches within ‘Other Towns and Cities’, which comes close to deafening the right side of the audience in a moment of soundman slip up. Quickly recovering though, Camera Obscura break the woozy spell of the set thus far with a much ‘woop-ed’ version of ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’ that flutters from the electric as it does the acoustic. Understandably better known, it is given the biggest claps of delight in the mid section.

There isn’t a hair or chord out of place, which is often not what we prize in performances. But it seems for everyone within the Shepherd’s Bush Empire the sweet synchronicity as the mirrorball is let loose like a Christmas jingle is much too thrilling to be caring about cool.

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