So after so much wishing/hoping/frantically watching listings, I was finally able to see the creators of one of my all-time favourite albums in a live environment. Having released their newest album, Desire Lines, earlier this week, Camera Obscura’s set was based around the new songs, which gel incredibly with their earlier work.
But before I talk about them ,I’ve got to mention the events before the show. I’ve not been to the Manchester Academy before (usually either the Apollo or Sound Control), and walking from the train station down Oxford Road, there was a fair number of young (and not-so-young) men in denim and patched leather, most with long hair. Hmmm- must be a metal clubnight somewhere nearby. Certainly not typical Camera Obscura fans. Except that they seemed to be moving towards, and congregating near, the Academy. Hm. Interesting. Turns out that Camera Obscura were in Academy 2, while next door in the main bit, none other than Megadeth. Bit of a contrast there, don’t you think?
So in the sweltering Academy 2, after the support slot by the fantastic Crybaby– a singer-songwriter from the same vein as Morrissey and Richard Hawley- Camera Obscura took to the stage behind smoke machines, which gave the stage an almost ‘soft-focus’ look. The Glaswegian septet (normally a five-piece, but live, the numbers a bolstered somewhat) opened with new song, ‘Do It Again’ before seamlessly settling into an old favourite ‘Let’s Get Out Of This Country’. Most of the main part of the set was dominated by new material, but it didn’t matter- half of the fans already knew it (the album had been available to stream for some time, and had been on general release for 2 whole days!), and the other half were not disappointed- their mixture of pre-Beatles pop, swooning balladry, indiepop and Motown-esque rhythms (pedal steel guitar! A song where a triangle is an integral part of the song! Boy-girl harmonies! What’s not to like?!) proving to be a success.
A couple of hiccups managed to happen, with ‘Teenager’ (arguably my favourite of their songs, along with ‘A Sister’s Social Agony’) taking two false starts, and new song ‘Cri Do Coeur’ took several attempts at the opening, before being cheered on by the forgiving audience, which even got a rare smile from singer Tracyanne Campbell. Unfortunately, nothing else from Underachievers Please Try Harder was aired- with more material from the previous two albums- My Maudlin Career and in particular Let’s Get Out Of This Country gradually permeating through. ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’, ‘If Looks Could Kill’ and ‘Come Back Margaret’ (all from …This Country) were followed by the title track from Desire Lines, ending the main part of the set.
The band returned to the stage for the encore of what may be considered their 2 most well-known songs, ‘French Navy’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’, the latter finishing with a echoey, ethereal coda- far longer than the version on record- which felt like an ending. Seriously, you could easily picture it’s use in a movie, the soft-focus fading, or panning into the sky as the words THE END fill the screen. A glorious moment.
It’s certainly enough to make me go out and purchase their new album, and I’m glad that I can finally cross Camera Obscura from my list of ‘must-see’s.