BC Camplight: live review – Manchester

BC Camplight

London Deaf Institute

April 2013

In a matter of months the new line-up of BC Camplight has gone from selling out the back room of The Castle pub to packing out the Deaf Institute with a couple of hundred people. Some high profile press (and some notably lower from this sycophantic scribe), a session with Marc Riley and countless plays of the new single ‘Thieves of Antigua’ on BBC6 have added to tonight’s crowd of loyal fans already in tow.

The audience is a mixture of ardent gig goer’s and penniless musicians who have also set up shop in the musical Mecca of Manchester. The new band itself features members of Lowline,  Kult Country and Golden Glow showcasing the musical calibre of a group BC calls ‘the best band on the continent’.

Opener ‘Grim Cinema’ has a chorus Lou Christie would be proud of and begins tonight’s set of memorable melodies and up tempo arrangements. The songs come across a lot heavier than on record which is also a welcome surprise on a boozy Saturday night. Camplight plays the piano as Jerry Lee Lewis used and abused it,  channelling the band like a mad conductor directs their orchestra,  stopping only to pass round a tequila bottle or slit the throats of donkey piñatas before tossing their paper mache limbs into the crowd.

The set mainly comprised of songs from debut album ‘Hide, Run Away’ and from the forthcoming LP ‘Grim Cinema’. The only inclusion from the second album ‘Blink of a Nihilst’ was ’Lord I’ve been on Fire’, complete with backing vocals from Hattie Coombe whose brilliant voice gives the song a more redemptive edge to that of the recording. BC introduces the song, asking if the five people who bought the album were present to which people’s shamed faces revealed their downloading sins. It would be interesting to hear more from this record live to see how the more experimental songs come across. Although it is a slow burner it remains a striking album and is greatly under appreciated.

The new songs show no sign of requiring repeated listens before they are implanted in your brain though. ’Just because I love you’ sounds like a homage to some of the great Philly groups who treaded the boards on Soul Train and ’How to die in the North’ is one of the best received songs of the night.

It was in the middle of the set when people realised they were witnessing something special as another new tune was unveiled. The encouraging thing about Atom Bomb is it suggests BC’s songwriting is getting better, unfettered by a creative hiatus when he admittedly ‘put the piano down’ for a number of years.

His decision to play music again is vindicated on the strength of this song alone.

The set finishes with a cover of Nilsson’s ‘Jump into the fire’. By this point everyone in the place is liquored up.  It’s rare to see a band enjoying themselves instead of going through the motions or acting hipper than thou and their lack of inhibition is contagious. After screaming the house down BC lets the band loose, walking off to a roomful of applause carrying the remaining dregs in his tequila bottle whilst the crowd raise their overflowing glasses for more.

Grim Cinema

Blood and Peanut Butter

Thieves in Antigua

Hide, Run Away

Just Because I Love You

Atom Bomb

Lord I’ve been on Fire

How to Die in the North

Richard Dawson

Jump into the Fire (Harry Nilsson)

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