Thursday, July 2, 2009

Show review: Camera Obscura at Mr. Small's Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 2:54 PM

I love a band that knows how to set the mood with its wardrobe, and Camera Obscura's threads radiated a smoky-lounge-with-asymmetrical-furniture vibe into every corner of Mr. Small's this past Tuesday. The boys in the band sported either sleek vests or subdued button-downs, and the girls rocked dresses -- lead vocalist Tracyanne Campbell brooding in all black, Carey Lander shimmering in a sultry '80s prom dress.

Even better than a band with style is a band that doesn't neglect old favorites when putting together a set list. The Scottish band favored selections from My Maudlin Career, but mixed it up with "Books Written for Girls" and the jaunty "Teenager." They even brushed the dust off of "Eighties Fan.

But it wasn't until they played a coy-yet-moody "Tears for Affairs" that I realized why I love these twee folks so dearly. As I listened, I had the sense I was rebelling against my tomboy upbringing, where first-person shooter games were the go-to prescription for heartbreak -- it was quite liberating. And it's good to know there's a band that makes it cool to cry over dumb boys when virtual violence just won't cut it for catharsis.

Listening to Campbell live is like discovering a poetic, tear-stained diary with elaborate gel pen doodles in the margins -- a lachrymose, but captivating read. This is a girl who falls in love hard and falls out of it even harder. Her eyes are sad, her smiles rare, but she has stories behind her melancholy, and a crystalline voice to sing them.

The final encore, "Razzle Dazzle Rose," seemed like the perfect way to end -- something like the odd calm that follows a particularly intense sob session. The trumpet sounded weepy as ever, but a frolicking bass line and a minute-and-a-half crescendo that had the sextet strumming (drumming, plucking, etc.) until blue-faced, kept the exiting mood, for the most part, optimistic.



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