by / May 1st, 2009 /

Camera Obscura, ALT, Dublin

Going to see a band live can be a surprise and delight at the best of times. It’s what music fans live for. For Camera Obscura tonight, the biggest surprise was that the 800 or so capacity venue in Dublin was JAMMED for their show. Fully booked. State could only imagine what the view was like for those at the back of the class such was the push and shove to get a view of the band tonight.

Glasgow’s Camera Obscura know their stock very well and they are very good at delivering it. Their brand of winsome, sweeping ’60s folk country ditties are songs for the lonesome or the dramatics amongst us, which seems like plenty tonight. There’s the girl in the corner of the venue, near the speakers, dancing in the dark – swaying and bobbing along oblivious to the other guys dancing with their gals nearby who are equally entralled by the pretty big screen ballads on show.

The songs are all lovely and nice, switching between lovelorn and windswept hysterics in equal measure. They are comforting, love-locked and bare for all to see – singer Traceyanne is plain as day in her lyrics for anyone willing to care enough – there is heartbreak and love lost all over the shop but celebrated in such a way that it clearly connects with a packed crowd who know all the words up the front, lost in a heady oblivion that only matters of the heart can recognise. The thick Scotch brogue in even more pronounced than on record, as is the lap-steel guitar with their best and most recent album My Maudlin Career getting the most airplay as expected. ‘Swans’ is as sweet as on the album with a six-strong band giving it the required bittersweet gravitas, ‘Forest and Sands’ with its lyrical reference to ‘if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze like a river in Toronto then I’d be pleased’ is an unexpected joy while the clear crowd highlight was from Let’s Get Out Of the Country in the form of their relative (and great) hit single ‘Lloyd I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken’.

For all the niceities though, it’s hard to repress the feelings that unless you know the words, these tunes are indistinguishable after a while. It’s about 50 minutes in when the entire audience let themselves go in dancing abandon that you feel the band really shine. Still, much of the material fails to differentiate itself but, hey, nobody is complaining. It’s the last night of the tour and the band and audience are enjoying themselves enough (not before admitting that the gig was almost cancelled no thanks to Tracyanne’s impending cold) at 10pm on a Thursday night, that it almost feels impolite to complain. For State’s money though, the band are on reflection, far superior on record.

  • Catherine

    Last night was my first time seeing Camera Obscura live and I was curious to see how they’d match up to their albums, given that they weren’t touring with strings or a full brass section. I thought the stripped-down lineup worked pretty well (the extra percussion was a nice extra touch) but from where I was standing the sound was absolutely woeful.

  • Yeh totally agree about the sound. What if you were down the back as many were? awful sound there.

  • Catherine

    I was about four bobbing heads from the front and I couldn’t hear a word of Carey Lander’s backing vocals, can only imagine how rotten it was down the back.

  • She wasn’t turned up very loud at all. Nobosy could hear her.

  • Dooley

    love the band love the music, but the sound quality/volume was terrible last night

    im sure what she said in between songs was lovely but ill never know because i never heard anything

    hopefully theyll be back

  • I’ve seen them 5 times now and it never gets old. I’m heading to 3 of the shows on the upcoming US tour. Yay for me!

    Post at the unofficial CO message forum I set up last week:

    And that’s not spam because it’s fricking on topic and I’m trying to spread the word about CO… 🙂

  • colum

    thursday was my first time seeing them live and i was really looking forward to the gig, alas i came away thoroughly disappointed.

    perhaps it was due to it being the last night of the tour but it was like a formula one car that never got out of second gear.

    i don’t think the set list helped, too many slower, downbeat tracks at the start of the gig

    as for the sound well i was right up the front, i mean the very front centre stage and the sound was still awful.

    i’d be willing to give them another chance, another night, another venue and perhaps it could have been very different.

  • Joe

    2 things. First, ALT has a terrible sound system or terrible sound people, one of the two.

    Second, being up front at a show is very unlikely to give you the best sound quality, in fact it’s often some of the worst. any comments from someone who was further back on what it was like?

    also i heard that the crowd was terrible throughout the show, like they weren’t actually fans. did ALT stop charging entry halfway through or something?