Alex CameronHarvest Sun @ Arts Club 13/4/18
After what feels like only a very short time since he was last here ALEX CAMERON is back in the city. Bringing with him an expanded live set-up and acclaimed second album Forced Witness, one can’t help but wonder what type of performance the near-capacity crowd will be in for tonight. Cameron’s first releases were dripping with a kind of sleazy melancholy that now seems to have been replaced with a more commercially sensitive approach; it is the interplay of these two aesthetics that make the show a beguiling prospect.
Opening track Studmuffin96 sets the tone with its alluring bass grooves and rhythmic vocal lines. Garbed in a full pleather suit with his hair greased flat, Cameron resembles the kind of failed Vegas crooner he has set out to satirise. The performance itself is so laden with irony that in another’s hands it could easily be off-putting. However, Cameron expertly treads the line between postmodern posturing and gleeful sincerity in a way that makes his live show genuinely riveting. In a way his approach is similar to that of Jonathan Richman, a blend of child-like naivety and cultural introspection delivered with a knowing glance that makes the audience an accomplice in the ruse.
Temporarily abandoning his angular dance moves, Cameron now dons his guitar and with his five-piece band moves into the more pop-orientated territory of most recent record. Last year’s single Stranger’s Kiss, tonight minus Angel Olsen, is a definite highlight and crowd favourite. The track exemplifies Cameron’s ability to craft songs with an almost Springsteen-esque simplicity that still reflect the kind of neon, twilight atmosphere that imbued his earlier releases. Anyone encountering this performer for the first time tonight would perhaps be surprised by how many of the crowd seem to know each and every word, but it is merely a genuine reflection of how sharply Cameron’s star has risen in the four years since he first played in Liverpool. The set is strewn with wry interjections and humorous interludes, the best of which comes in the form of a ‘stool review’ in which “dear friend and business partner” Roy Molloy takes leave of his saxophone duties in order to give some thoughtful reflections on the quality of his perch for the night.
Real Bad Lookin’ and True Lies get things moving again and, when performed live, reveal themselves to be more carefully constructed and nuanced than the studio versions perhaps let on. It has, in a way, been a night of minor revelation for those of us who thought that maybe Alex Cameron was not a huge amount more than a curiosity. The kind of artist who when glimpsed in heavily curated video clips seems interesting but then lacks the substance to hold a room for an hour. Any such notions have now certainly been dismissed and as he and his band re-emerge for an encore of Take Care Of Business there is a sense that much bigger things lay at their feet.