Whats that all about?
Scottish characters, both real and fictional have been making the headlines of late, and it has been getting harder to tell which one is which. If we have it correctly, Susan Boyle is the fast-talking heavy swearing PM’s aide from ‘In The Loop’, Armando Iannucci’s (another Scot) new satirical comedy film and Malcolm Tucker is the surprise star who has stole the worlds hearts with average looks, better than average vocal talent and a back-story of having never been kissed before. With these two new heroes flying the Saltire for all things Scottish, its not like the country needs another role-model to look up to but Camera Obscura are back and they are as stereotypical of another type of Scottish person as you could ever hope to see.
Yes, the twee indie kid is done nowhere as well as it is in Scotland and to be honest, whatever mood you are in will greatly affect on how you can interact with these, well-meaning but sometimes annoying folk. The last time this reviewer saw Camera Obscura, they were playing in a tent in Spain, spirits were high and the band was well received by a very mixed audience. This time around, a damp and grey Sunday at the end of a long week was the setting and what was previously charming, now dragged and grated. There is a terrible Scottish trait that seems to accept, nay celebrate, failure and shoddiness it was evident throughout the set.
Fluffed introductions, embarrassing between song chat and a limpness that was broken by no more than a few tracks was the over ��"riding feelings from the first half of the set. There is no doubt that Camera Obscura should be proud of getting to the Barrowlands Ballroom in a headline capacity but it also brings them an all new set of problems. The set itself had far too many similar moments to truly engage anyone bar the most devoted fan. Thankfully, Camera Obscura have a very dedicated fanbase who would have lapped up a two hour show of knitting instructions if the band delivered it but the more objective listener had to dig deeper for the great moments.
And there were great moments because on their day, Camera Obscura are a very fine band. The two best songs from their previous album, ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’ and ‘Lets Get Out of This Country’ were by far the stand-out moments of the evening. ‘Lloyd…’ was the hit of the night, combining energy, melody, strong lyrics and emotion that no other could manage.
The other good moments came when the band were joined on stage by a mini string section, augmenting a few numbers with new track ‘French Navy’ benefiting greatly from their swooping and striding movements. There are actually too many people in the standard line-up of Camera Obscura of the amount of noise the band actually makes but the collective unit and cohesion is probably a main reason for the warmth and love that is given to the band. The crowd certainly loved it during the last song when one of the semi-permanent tour members of the band was thrashing his tambourines for all he was worth. The level of laughter was actually disturbing because it was not a sight that made comfortable viewing but fans are fans and they’ll cheer anything.
The twee set that make up a Camera Obscura crowd will no doubt have taken a great deal of enjoyment from the show and at the end of the day, is that not all that matters. Barring the fluffed intros and the “whats that all about?” attitude would have you believe, the Cam have a tightness about them but it can be very hard to judge them and make an opinion.
This is best shown in front woman Tracyanne who is very hard to pin down. One minutes she is all stumbling and earnest, the next she is throwing rock shapes that even Johnny Thunders would have considered too derivative and its hard to know where the real Camera Obscura sits (and don’t say beside Edinburgh Castle). The band have cracked the top 40 and although its only number 32 when utter disposable pop crashes into the top 5 with ease, the band again should be really proud of this achievement and its easily their biggest smash to date. With reviews of the album being so positive, it was disappointing to see a live show that plodded rather than danced and soared but perhaps when the summer festival circuit rolls around, the band will have broken in the new material and a shorter set-time will be the ideal setting to check out the good moments that the band definitely have.