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Camera Obscura, The Last Town Chorus

30-Aug-2007 10:43 PM Contributed by: pete Concert Reviews
Camera Obscura
The Phoenix in Toronto, Ontario
Photos and Review by: Pete Nema
Camera Obscura
The Last Town Chorus
August 26, 2007
Full Photo Set (15 photos)

Camera Obscura is a band out of Glasgow that has passed through Toronto at least one other time this year, but based on some comments from the band, it sounds like they have played here more often. There seemed to be some concern that Toronto would be tiring of them, but that certainly wasn't the case for the all-ages show at The Phoenix last Sunday, the last show on their current tour. However, it was the first time I was scheduled to see them, and to make the show even more enticing, The Last Town Chorus was billed as the opening band.

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura

The first thing you need to know about Camera Obscura is that you're not likely to become a fan by seeing them in concert. That may sound a little mean, but the truth is that they are a subtle act, so their show is more for existing fans, of which there appears to be no shortage (at least in Toronto). Tracyanne Campbell (vocals, guitar) says that although the band may not be great at expressing their excitement, they are definitely feeling it. I think she's being a little hard on herself because there are little actions and expressions that all add up, but as I said, it's more subtle. Campbell is a humble participant, expressing additional concern over what she considered self-indulgent behaviour. But compared to many other bands, I would argue that Camera Obscura's definition of self-indulgent is overly critical. There was no excessive guitar wanking. There was no experimental improvisations. There were just some things the band wanted to do that fit well into the show. For example, given that it was the last show of the tour, they brought their stage manager out to play along to one of the songs.

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura

The one action that could've possibly been considered self-indulgent really just turned out to be endearing: After playing their last song of the proper set, the lead guitarist returned to the stage alone claiming that he had lost a bet and this was his punishment. The other members followed him out and sat down cross-legged on stage like schoolchildren while he played a rusty version of Rocky Racoon by The Beatles. The drummer sat at his feet and recorded the act using a digital camera (presumably in video mode). It was pretty funny, and was enjoyed by both the fans and the other members of the band. The actual encore consisted of a Sonny & Cher cover (hmm... perhaps this is why I referred to Cher in my last review), and then one more original and well-received song.

Info: Camera Obscura | Connect: MySpace

The Last Town Chorus

The Last Town Chorus is revolving ensemble lead by lap steel-guitar player and vocalist Megan Hickey, who has been getting a fair amount of media mileage out of her cover of David Bowie's Modern Love due to it being featured on Grey's Anatomy. Neither the original song nor the television show are of much interest to me, but her arrangement is moody and showcases her style well. However, it is her own material that is the real story. For me, the song It's Not Over stood out during her set. She works her lap guitar as if she has strange relationship with it – her touch causes it to scream and wail in both passion and pain. The music is volatile, changing from soft and spacious to intense and rich, her solos filled with distortion and sometimes preceded by a twist of the volume knob.

The Last Town Chorus
The Last Town Chorus
The Last Town Chorus

Megan has a way with timing, both in music and in speech. Her comments between songs were humorous, the humour emphasized by her speech patterns and timing. The charisma levels she emits are insane. I spoke to her briefly after the show and discovered she is just as amiable and approachable off stage as she appears to be on stage. Even if some of the material may be a bit mellow for me to listen to regularly, her amazing voice and wailing guitar are more than enough to make her stage show stand out, and when you add in all the charisma and beauty, it is definitely an act worth seeing.

The Last Town Chorus
The Last Town Chorus
The Last Town Chorus

Info: The Last Town Chorus | Connect: MySpace

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