Camera Obscura: Live Last Night

obscura

Live Last Night

"I don't want to be sad again." That's what Tracyanne Campbell sang -- in her delightfully melancholy voice, with her usual steely-eyed determination -- during the first song Scottish sextet Camera Obscura played Sunday night at the 9:30 club. Maybe she's telling the truth. But if that were the case, she'd have to find a new job. Because then what ever would she write songs about?

Campbell's bittersweet slices of indie-pop perfection have made Camera Obscura one of the most reliably consistent bands around. But Campbell's perpetual almost-heartbreak, can be both a good and a bad thing. It means that each of the group's four records is a sparkling listen, with the latest, "My Maudlin Career," perhaps the best yet. But it also means that the band's live show is, well, a lot like listening to the records. Except there are more girls with glasses standing near you.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

That's not an indictment of the band's performance. To expect duck-walking guitar playing or any sort of over-the-top enthusiasm would be a miscalculation by the audience, in addition to insincerity on the band's part. Camera Obscura plays sad songs with subtle pleasures, such as hearing Campbell coo one of her memorable couplets ("Spent a week in a dusty library/Waiting for some words to jump at me" or "We'll find a cathedral city/You can convince me I am pretty"). About the most showmanship to come from the stage was an end-of-song tambourine flourish by Campbell.

To hear 70 minutes of smartly arranged, hook-laden songs is a fine way to spend an evening and Camera Obscura didn't disappoint on that front. Even within the confines of indie pop the band mixes it up nicely, whether it's the Enchantment Under the Sea '50 throwback of "Teenager" or the slightly-rustic "Razzle Dazzle Rose." And there was a definite increase in energy during "If Looks Could Kill" and "French Navy," nu-girl-group anthems, bookstore-style. But at the end of the show, the audience members didn't stick around and "Woo!" their lungs out. They clapped -- politely, sincerely -- and filed out of the club in an orderly fashion. And that was fitting.

--DAVID MALITZ

By David Malitz |  June 22, 2009; 7:43 PM ET Live Last Night
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