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Live Review: Camera Obscura @ 9:30 Club — 6/19/24

Scottish dreampoppers Camera Obscura began a recent visit to 9:30 Club with a wonderfully chill new song, “Liberty Print.” The winsome song actually evoked some degree of regret over an apparent failed relationship, but it was sang so pleasantly by frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell.

You couldn’t help but smile and sway along to the melody.

Camera Obscura’s performance at 9:30 Club on June 19 marked their return to the hallowed venue and indeed to the USA in 10 years! The band were last there in July 2014 in support of their 4AD release, Desire Lines. They returned for their first new album in a decade — Look to the East, Look to the West, released in May on Merge Records.

Watch the official music video for “Liberty Print” by Camera Obscura on YouTube:

The band, consisting of six members, included founders Tracyanne (vocals, guitar) and Gavin Dunbar (bass), who got onto business with minimal chat but perpetual good humor. They were joined by brand-new member Donna Maciocia, who replaces the late Carey Lander, on keyboards. The band is rounded out by drummer Lee Thompson and guitarist Kenny McKeeve, both of whom have been onboard since the band’s debut full-length album, 2001’s Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. The five permanent band members were joined by percussionist Tim Cronin, who toured with them in the past as well.

In the middle of the show, Camera Obscura presented “Big Love,” another song from the new album. The band cleverly mixed up their sound by adding a bit of country music jangle to the tune while still retaining their characteristic twee mix. It really worked well.

Watch the official music video for “Big Love” by Camera Obscura on YouTube:

Of course, the country rock flavor was not to be unexpected, given that Camera Obscura previously added it to their sonic blueprint. Friends attending the show were excited to hear “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” a torch song hailing from the band’s 2006 studio album, Let’s Get Out of This Country. It also has a kind of honky tonk feel to it, and it calls to be sung at karaoke on a warm summer night.

Next to Look to the East, Look to the West, the band gave a lot of love to Let’s Get Out of This Country, as they put five songs from the record into the concert. They closed the show with the album’s “If Looks Could Kill” and added “Razzle Dazzle Rose” to their three-song encore. The comfortably full club clapped along to “If Looks Could Kill,” which was about as raucous as Camera Obscura get — a little bit of a kick but still in that very soothing and quite pleasing cadence.

I personally very much liked the subtleties in Camera Obscura’s presentation. Tracyanne, who incorporates feminist themes in her songs, is a very grounded soul. The band clearly love football, peppering their set with references and carrying a football club scarf draped over an amp. Gavin’s bass carried a Pride sticker. They let the small things tell you who they are, and it’s refreshing in a world that often favors loud personalities.

Camera Obscura wrapped their current USA tour last week in New York City, but hopefully they won’t take another 10 years before returning to our shores.

Catch Camera Obscura on tour!

Here are some photos of Camera Obscura performing at 9:30 Club on June 19, 2024. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.


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