Friday, February 2nd, 2007

If Looks Could Kill

Would somebody, if they could, explain to me exactly what transpired between last July, when Camera Obscura played to a nicely full Horseshoe Tavern and this past Wednesday night, when they sold out the almost three-times larger Opera House? I had questioned the wisdom of moving the show from Lee’s Palace, where it was originally scheduled, but the fact that the extra tickets were gone in under a week proved why people who book shows do what they do and I don’t. But whatever the reason, their fanbase has apparently grown greatly in the past half year and that’s absolutely a good thing – Let’s Get Out Of This Country is a wonderful record – it just took me by surprise.

The addition of labelmates The Essex Green to the tour was an inspired choice, their retro folk-pop a perfect compliment to that of Camera Obscura. If I were to describe The Essex Green in a word, it’d be “classy” – even though their live sound was considerably more muscular than that found on their recordings, their winsome chamber pop origins were still evident. Keyboardist Sasha Bell and guitarist Chris Ziter’s vocals were note-perfect as they performed selections from last year’s The Cannibal Sea and 2003”s The Long Goodbye as well as a number from their other incarnation as well as a Flying Burrito Brothers cover for good measure. A superb set and I cant imagine that they didn’t win over a bunch of new fans by their set’s end.

Those new to the live Camera Obscura experience probably came away from the show with a deeper appreciation for the band’s wonderful songcraft but also perhaps a sense of disappointment in the band’s relatively low on-stage charisma quotient. And that’s fair – they’re hardly a rock-out band and on the large Opera House stage, it seemed as though they’d set up their equipment in such a way as to be as far away from each other as physically possible, thus nullifying the possibility of there being any accidental chemistry between players (save for the stand-in for multi-instrumentalist Nigel Baillie, who was obliged move around the stage depending on what instrument he was playing but I don’t that given the opportunity, he’d have just hung out at the back of the stage as well). And TracyAnne Campbell’s dour game face is pretty much legendary by this point though she seemed to be in good spirits, actually smiling or almost smiling at a few points during the show.

But back the aforementioned songcraft – there’s no denying the quality of their material and they delivered the goods, old and new. The first half of the set focused on the quieter, more pensive side of their repertoire but with the organ swells that signified the opening of “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”, they finally pulled out their upbeat, handclappy pop gems and rode those all the way to the set’s end – the back-to-back-to-back of “Lloyd”, “If Looks Could Kill” and “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” were simply irresistible. As always, the show was kept compact, clocking in at just over an hour, but combined with the longer-than-typical set from The Essex Green, my pop reservoirs were all full up and I was a happy camper.

The Pitch, St Louis Today, Denver Post, The Kalamazoo Gazette and The Age talk to various Camera Obscuras while I Heart Music has gone to the trouble of MP3-ifying recent radio sessions for both Camera Obscura and The Essex Green.

Photos: Camera Obscura, The Essex Green @ The Opera House – January 31, 2007
MP3: Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out Of This Country”
MP3: Camera Obscura – “If Looks Could Kill”
MP3: The Essex Green – “Don’t Know Why (You Stay)”
Video: Camera Obscura – “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” (MOV)
Video: Camera Obscura – “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” (MOV)
Video: Camera Obscura – “If Looks Could Kill” (YouTube)
MySpace: Camera Obscura
MySpace: The Essex Green

The Toronto Star talks to T.O.’s Golden Dogs, who’re playing Lee’s Palace tonight. I’ve been told by numerous people on numerous occasions that I need to see this band so I am – check back Monday for a post-mortem.

The new TV On The Radio video I mentioned yesterday has stopped discriminating by nationality and is now available for all to see:

Video: TV On The Radio – “Province” (iFilm)

Pitchfork gets the lowdown on Voxtrot’s full-length debut, still untitled (but possibly self-titled) and due out on May 22.

And this Chart piece on Broken Social Scene mentions in passing that Feist’s new record, rumoured to be called The Reminder, might be out around May.

Pitchfork has the full tour dates for Dean & Britta, including the March 12 date at Toronto’s Mod Club I reported a couple days ago (tickets for that one will be $16.50). They also have an MP3 from Back Numbers available to grab. So go and grab.

Some shows – Julie Doiron brings her well-reviewed new album Woke Myself Up to the Drake Underground on February 20, tickets $15. The UK’s Razorlight make up for their canceled V Fest appearance with a show at the Mod Club on March 1 and Man Man are at the Horseshoe on March 18, tickets $13.50.

And on a bummer note, Elvis Perkins has canceled his April 9 show at the Mod Club. Don’t know why and I hope he makes it up soon – his new record Ash Wednesday is really growing on me. It’s in stores February 20.

By : Frank Yang at 8:25 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Koshka says:

    Great pix, good review – small note, that wasn’t Nigel Baillie, he’s home with a new baby! Not sure who their stand-in is, but he was good!

  2. Bill Koch says:


    I wanted to comment on this as we’re driving over from Chicago to Kalamazoo, MI tonight to see Camera Obscura perform at the Kraftbrau Brewery (a really swell place to see a show IMO). Regarding the influx in attendance, never underestimate the power of late January/early Feb. when tours are a bit scarce and kids are back at school itching to go see some live music.

    Last July, they played to a half-empty Empty Bottle here in Chicago on a Monday (granted this was due to being rescheduled from a larger venue a couple of nights prior due to a power issue) and now they’re booked at a venue 4, 5 times bigger for tomorrow night’s show. In any event, I think that this is just the time of the year when there are not as many "social" things going on to distract potential ticket-buyers.

  3. Frank says:

    koshka – thanks, I’ve revised my writeup to reflect. I didn’t think he looked familiar…

  4. Brads says:

    Their touring multi-instrumentalist is the very talented Francois Marry (a Frenchman by way of Bristol). He and his band, the Atlas Mountains, have a <a href="…">Myspace page</a> and a proper site <a href="">here</a>.

  5. Kevin says:

    Controller.Controller’s Jeff Scheven directed the TV on the Radio vid.

  6. Thierry says:

    I’m still not sure either what explains Camera Obscura’s great leap in popularity in the last 6 months – or the fact that "Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken" was received like the Number One hit everyone had been waiting for. Sure, it’s a great, great song (one of my top 10 singles of 2006), but it’s not like it received massive airplay on any outlet!

    As for the show itself, I’ll repeat what I said elsewhere: excellent sets by both bands; Camera Obscura seemed much tighter than at to the Horseshoe show (though the pacing of their set could have been better, as they struggled to get some momentum going early on); overall, I think the Opera House suited the more expansive sound of the new record and gave the colourful arrangements more room to breathe (although I agree that all that room between bandmembers made them look more like estranged aging rockers giving it one last go for the money and travelling on separate private jets…).

  7. Hemal says:

    FYI… from the British Accents radio show blog:

    Wondering why the CAMERA OBSCURA show at the Paradise in Boston last weekend took awhile to get started? Reports from a reliable source point to this as the reason: the club manager apparently had to run down to the local police precinct to bail out one of the band members, who was reportedly caught shoplifting at the Shaw’s [grocery store] down the street. They didn’t make any mention of it onstage and the story hasn’t leaked to the press, so for now it’s a BA exclusive in the unsubstantiated rumor mill.

  8. Bob says:

    This was my first time seeing them but I thought it was fantastic. Even the sound wasn’t as bad as it usually is at The Opera House. Also, when it comes to the increase in their popularity, I just simply think that their latest release just received more exposure. I know personally I’ve heard and read more about it than their other releases. And it also appeared on an awful lot of year-end lists (including mine)

  9. Roland says:

    Really nice pictures, thanks. I enjoyed the show at the Warsaw a lot as well.

  10. carlos says:

    set list?
    thanx! :)

  11. Frank says:

    there’s a photo of the set list here:

    note the tiny-print additions, I think they played everything on the page.