Monday, July 10, 2006

Everyone Else Thinks It's the Bee's Knees

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of seeing Camera Obscura in concert for the first time. Considering my pop addiction and love of well-crafted songs, the Scottish band quickly earned a place in my heart after a few listens. I've been a fan of Under Achievers Please Try Harder for a good while, and their most recent Let's Get Out Of This Country cemented my high opinion of the sextet. So, I was really looking forward to a live performance.

The show was at The Great Scott in Allston, Massachusetts. The bar was actually quite charming, with small tables and an impressive wooden bar. And, since it's Boston, the obligatory television tuned in to the Red Sox game. The stage itself was quite petite, and somewhat tucked away from the rest of the bar. When I arrived, the house DJ was blaring music, blatantly trying to appeal to the indie hipster crowd. He did a pretty nice job, though I don't appreciate it when the house music requires wearing earplugs. Those are usually reserved for the actual show, thankyouverymuch.

After a very long wait, the openers Georgie James made their way to the dimly list stage [Which, by the way, made pictures a bit difficult. These were the best I could do.] The Washington D.C.-based band is a new, more pop-friendly project from John Davis, former drummer of Q and Not U. The group had a decent stage presence--about as much as can be expected from a reasonably sized group on a tiny, crowded stage--but I honestly wasn't all that impressed. The first batch of songs sounded almost exactly the same. Similar melodies, rhythms, timbres, and harmonies; nothing very distinctive. Later in the set, their songs did seem to branch out a bit. But as they continued to play, even the more unique songs started to blend in as they recycled the same tricks over again. I think Georgie James have a decent amount of potential. Their singer/keyboardist Laura Burhenn reminded me of a slightly more soulful, more pop-oriented Fiona Apple. And that seems very marketable, indeed. But they need to better define their sound and beef-up their song writing before they'll really distinguish themselves as a unique pop/indie act.

Between sets, the excessively loud house music returned. There was an odd delay between finishing set-up and the beginning of Camera Obscura's set, during which all six of them stood right beside the stage. The audience quickly grew restless and started clapping and clamoring, hoping to persuade them to the stage. It was pretty humorous listening to several groups try to chant "Camera Obscura"--which does not lend itself to chanting--and then quickly give up. Eventually, though, the clapping and attempted chants succeed. Once on stage, Tracyanne explained that they had been waiting for a dramatic entrance song, but it never came. It was both amusing and a bit endearing. It also made me wish the DJ had caught on and played something like "The Final Countdown."

Once on stage, they were quick to start the music, keeping the talk to a minimum. A quick "How are ya doin' " and then "Keep It Clean" began. Immediately, I was taken with the spotlessness of Tracyanne's vocals. Perfect tuning, clear and crisp. She remained spot-on the entire show. It's also clear in watching her that she's quite the perfectionist. She always requested slight adjustments in levels and kept a very focused, serious look on her face throughout each song. It's an interesting juxtaposition--Camera Obscura's pop melodies coming from such a determined-looking girl. The rest of the band was also quite polished; especially considering that it was only the third night of their tour. They stayed together perfectly, and sounded quite comfortable. They really seem to fit together as a band. It's a great thing to watch. I could hardly discern methods of keeping time within the group, which is impressive when considering their size.

The set was both well paced and selected. They hit all the highlights of Let's Get Out Of This Country [the title track, the clever single "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken," "Country Mile," "Dory Previn," and "I Need All The Friends I Can Get"], most of Underachievers' shining moments ["Suspended From Class," "Keep It Clean," and "Teenager"], and "I Love My Jean." The only real miss was leaving out "Let Me Go Home." Either way, there wasn't a dull moment. Even when they were slowed by equipment troubles, they volunteered chatter and jokes to fill the time. Tracyanne's Scottish pun--"What do you do when you find a trumpet in your garden?. . . Rut-it-ut!"--was a bit lost on the American crowd [for Scots, Rut = root and ut = out]. Both the joke and their bashful attempts to explain it were adorable. The set really showed off the band's versatility and range, including their twee-pop gems and twang-infused ballads. The encore was also a delight, with an acoustic rendition of "I Need All The Friends I Can Get" complete with audience handclaps.

Camera Obscura put on a great show, living up to my very high expectations. It can be a bit dangerous going into a show adoring a group's albums. Sometimes you walk out completely unimpressed and a bit saddened by the whole thing. But with Camera Obscura's obvious perfectionist ways, Scottish charm and straight-up talent, that was not the case here.


Anonymous zingtrial said...

Hi been reading through nice pics
thanks for sharing

5:50 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Lis said...

oh final countdown.. and yay for finally getting to see some shows!

7:26 PM, July 10, 2006  

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