Sunday, February 04, 2007

I Love My Jean

concert review: Camera Obscura, The Essex Green @ The Opera House(Toronto, Ontario), January 31, 2007

Camera Obscura @ The Opera House: photo by Michael LigonThis past Wednesday, the Merge Records double-bill of Scotland's Camera Obscura and Brookyln's The Essex Green made it's way to our fair city for a show at The Opera House. My initial selfish disappointment upon hearing news that the show was moved from the cozier Lee's Palace to the larger Opera House soon turned to appreciation. If anyone deserves success, it couldn't have happened to a nicer band than Camera Obscura. Any concerns I had whether they could make a successful jump from their show at the cozy Horseshoe Tavern in July 2006 to the larger The Opera House this time around were soon put to rest. I know it's still early in the year but I wouldn't be surprised at the end of the year if this show makes my fave concerts of the year list.

Starting off the night promptly at their 9:15 pm scheduled set start time was Brooklyn's The Essex Green. Their 60-ish folk-pop 1999 Kindercore debut "Everything is Green" was my only reference point. Unfortunately, they didn't play anything off of their debut release but rather they'd focused on material from their last few releases including their most recent Merge Records release, "The Cannibal Sea". Man, was I pleased with what I heard from the band during their set, definitely improved by the onstage energy exuded by the band. With lead vocals alternating between keyboardists/flutist Sasha Bell and guitarist Christopher Ziter, the band performed a sprite set of pop music, approaching a level of power-pop akin to say Fountains of Wayne, and at times a twangier sound(attributed mostly to guitarist's Jeff Baron's meaty guitar lines) that reminded me of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Rounding out the sound were cute-as-a-button Julia Rydholm's energetic basslines and the spectacularly fluid drumming of Tim Barnes. Not much in the way of banter, except for Julia's brief account of her first childhood visit to Canada and her excitement of staying at the Marriot, then Sasha saying something along the lines that Julia would be using the jacuzzi when they get back to their hotel. Wakka, wakka.

Musically, I'd say that Camera Obscura were as on top of their game as they were last year at the Horseshoe Tavern. The difference was that I think acoustics of The Opera House brought out the lushness of the material off of "Let's Get Out Of This Country" that you just couldn't get within the smaller confines of the Horseshoe Tavern. The band chose to start off the first half of the show with mostly mellower material but when the triple attack of "If Looks Could Kill", "Let's Get Out Of This Country" and "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" finally came it was exhilirating. The band still doesn't have that much of a rockin' stage presence but I've come to accept that. But what they do have is charm, humour and even a sense of playfulness. It was fun to watch their trumpeteer jump up to the drumkit during one song and tap the cymbal as the drummer continued to play. Towards the end of the set, the band begun a hand-clap that got most of the audience joining in as the band jumped into a rendition of "I Need All The Friends I Can Get". Kudos to members of The Essex Green for restarting the handclapping and getting the audience back into it. After they'd performed "I Love My Jean", which the guitarist had explained contained lyrics based on the writings of Scottish poet Robbie Burns, I'd caught an additional quip from the guitarist I hadn't initially heard clearly because of his accent. But when I'd thought harder about what he'd said, I think he said that Robbie Burns died of Syphillis. Maybe you had to be there, but the comedic timing was priceless.

Here are some photos from the show I took.

YouTube: Camera Obscura - "Suspended From Class" (live at The Opera House - January 31, 2007)
MySpace: Camera Obscura
MySpace: The Essex Green

More reviews/photos over at chartattack, Chromewaves, Torontoist, Gigs and Discs, and It's Not The Band I Hate....

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