Camera Obscura : Live

<img src="" alt=" " />In the penultimate River-to-River Festival South Street Seaport show, Camera Obscura delivered an effective, if not unexpected, performance....

Camera Obscura : LiveIn the penultimate River-to-River Festival South Street Seaport show, Camera Obscura delivered an effective, if not unexpected, performance.  Playing only a few dates on this side of the Atlantic, the Glasgow-based band stuck mostly to singles and their last record, 2006’s Let’s Get Out of This Country.  However, that record and those singles are strong pieces of work, and so was their August 24th show.

To say Camera Obscura played singles and material off of Get Out would be an understatement: the band played their last eight singles – going all the way back to 2001 – and every song off of This Country save one, “I Need All the Friends I Can Get” (not the first choice to be the only one skipped).  Let’s’s flowing, expansive “Come Back Margaret” served well as an opener, and if “The False Contender” was a little too slow, the alt-grooves of “Tears For Affairs” more than made up.  Their most recent, “Tears” was the first of four singles, followed by the more alt-road “Teenager” (which easily exceeded its delivery on 2003’s Underachievers Please Try Harder).  Then came the last record’s title track, an obvious crowd-pleaser (even if it were Europeans singing it – or maybe that just enhanced “Let’s Get Out of This Country”…), but a surprising audience favorite was the following “I Love My Jean”.  A 2005 EP, “Jean” is one of two tracks on the EP where Camera Obscura took poems by the ‘national poet of Scotland’, Robert Burns, and set them to music.  Over 200 years old, damn if the words didn’t work as a sweet, sweet pop song.

Things took a step down when the group returned to Let’s Get Out with the too quiet “Country Mile”, but then came the record’s ‘big single’, “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”.  Upbeat and fun, but still definitely Obscura, there’s a very good reason it’s beloved, and that was certainly true at South Street Seaport.  Like “Tears For Affairs”, “Lloyd” started off a block of singles, going into the sixties-pop of “If Looks Could Kill”, and another Underachievers single better live than on the record, the cute, but live not too cute, “Keep It Clean”.  Unfortunately, this threesome, along with the straight-up alt-country of the following “Dory Previn”, was the night’s highpoint.  The not-quite-lovely-enough “Suspended From Class” was the only Underachievers piece that wasn’t better live, and Country’s “Razzle Dazzle Rose” really only dazzled at the end, going into the encore break.  Camera Obscura returned with a cover of ABBA’s “Super Trooper” that certainly wasn’t ABBA, but maybe jumped a little too far into sadness.  However, the group closed the evening with “Eighties Fan”, the single off of their 2001 debut, Biggest Bluest Hi Fi, which stayed sweet live, but also gained some fun bop.

If Camera Obscura put on a show at South Street Seaport (QRO venue review) that wasn’t exactly surprising, that was of little relative importance, because it was so good.  The night’s main problem had nothing to do with the band, but rather with a few over-exuberant fans, right up front, and drunk as hell.  Loud and rollickingly hyper in a way most ill fitting for such a gentle, touching band, they filled every break between songs with shouted pleas for “The Last Song”.  One even offered the band “Forty American dollars” to play it, with which singer/guitarist/frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell replied, “Forty American dollars?  That’s not worth much these days.”  But even after putting them in their place, she was sweet enough to say she didn’t mean to offend the boisterous few – or anyone in the greenback-carrying crowd (though she wasn’t wrong about the exchange rate…).  Maybe there wasn’t another moment as unexpected that night, but many, many, just as sweet.

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