Camera Obscura Kills It at The Variety Playhouse Atlanta
Written by Travis Williams and Photographed by Robert Lambert
A rainy atmosphere in Little Five Points did little to deter an enthusiastic crowd for Camera Obscura at the Variety Playhouse on Saturday. The occasion marked the band’s first concert appearance in Atlanta since they last came to the Variety Playhouse in November 2009 (in support of My Maudlin Career). Nearly four years later, the success of their latest release (Desire Lines, 2013, 4AD Records) and a fierce determination to quell the throes of separation from the Scottish indie group drew an exceptionally large audience. During the set, lead singer TracyAnne Campbell even remarked, “I didn’t know this was a standing venue.”
The band took the stage to the sounds “Intro,” the first track on Desire Lines; you would have heard the breathtaking string arrangement if it hadn’t drowned in a sea of applause. Campbell hurdled a brief issue with the height of her mic stand to deliver an energizing performance of the group’s upbeat new single, “Do It Again.” Their welcoming, lighthearted attitude toward the audience is no doubt the product of a long, successful career, beginning back in 1996. Guitarist Kenny McKeeve responded to applause between songs with, “We’re just tuning up, it’s not that impressive.”; Campbell answered the crowd’s unanimous request for “French Navy” (from My Maudlin Career) during the encore. The band continued to glide through an eclectic mix of both new and old material with calculated finesse, satisfying unseasoned and veteran fans alike.
The foundation for Camera Obscura’s carefree sound, particularly on Desire Lines, is without a doubt the soft, palatable beauty of Campbell’s voice paired with McKeeve’s surf-esque Jazzmaster cleans. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they enlisted the help of “southern gentleman” producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens) and backing vocals from Neko Case and Jim James on the record. This doesn’t comprise all of the notable instrumentation however; Carey Lander’s keys really fill out the indie pop sound, and the slide guitar featured on the new album’s title track (the band’s second to last song before the encore) melts into the mix as smoothly as butter on a warm biscuit.
Despite all of the positivity radiating from this show, there is some bad news. If you missed them this time around, it might be a while before they come back; the band closed out the last leg of their tour the following night in Cincinnati. Make sure to grab a copy of Desire Lines, and keep your ears and eyes open!
Never heard them? Check out Camera Obscura’s latest single “Do It Again” here. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and online at www.camera-obscura.net.