Live Review: Alex Cameron, Liverpool Arts Club

Editor's Review
  • - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Summary

Alex Cameron and partner in Sax Roy Molloy bring their signature blend of 80s soft rock keyboards and weirdo lyrics to Liverpool's Art Club

8.5/10
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On the penultimate date of his EU/UK tour, Australian alt-pop star Alex Cameron played a blinding set at Liverpool’s Arts Club, performing tracks from both his first record ‘Jumping The Shark’ and his 2017 sophomore album ‘Forced Witness’. 

 There is a great sense of community around Alex Cameron.  His touring band is made up largely of fellow Aussie talents, notably the uber-cool Holiday Sidewinder on keyboards and backing vocals, as well as the enigmatic singer-songwriter Jack Ladder, who opens up the show before Cameron takes the stage. Then there is Alex’s “dear friend and business partner”, saxophonist Roy Molloy. Onstage, Cameron and Molloy are almost a kind of dry comedy double act, Molloy vocally silent for the most part of the evening, aside from his ‘stool review’, where his four out of five rating given to the venues furniture is met with rapturous applause and cheers of laughter. Moments like these felt like the group were inviting the audience to be part of their inside joke, and the camaraderie continued once they had finished performing too, as Molloy, Sidewinder and Ladder all mingled with waiting fans hoping for a quick chat or picture.

The show itself is fantastic and is a great example of how Cameron has mastered the art of creating catchy, melodic pop music but without skimping on the lyrical content. Many of the songs have a darkness at their core, take opener ‘Studmuffin96’, a song title taken straight from an icky internet chatroom and where Cameron proclaims ‘”I’m waiting for my lover, she’s almost seventeen”. The excellent “True Lies”, co-written with Jack Ladder, continues this theme, Cameron here a sleazy boyfriend who “loves his little darling” but “also loves these women online”. The songs aren’t deadly serious thankfully, and there is much levity to be found in Cameron’s lyrics, seen at the end of ‘True Lies’ where the protagonist admits that there is a high chance the woman online is actually “some Nigerian guy”, adding though that he “doesn’t care if they’re just beautiful lies, I’m gonna love him with these beautiful lies”. ‘Candy May’, ‘Politics of Love’ and ‘Strangers Kiss’, the latter a duet with Sidewinder, are the closest that Cameron gets to more conventionally romantic song-writing, but even on these tracks Cameron successfully retains his unique voice through lyrics such as “I got shat on by an eagle baby, now I’m King of the neighbourhood, and it feels like I could, just peel the gym pants off a single Mother”.

There is a decent mix of songs from both albums, and the band handle the contrast of the noir synth-pop found on the ‘Jumping the Shark’ material well against the glossier, 80s soft-rock tone of the ‘Forced Witness’. ‘The Comeback’ features jittering yet invigorating keyboards, and ‘Real Bad Lookin’ showcases Cameron’s smooth baritone against the backing of a low-fi, 50s style bounce. On the other hand, ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’ and ‘Politics of Love’ sound arena-ready, Brandon Flowers’s fingerprints are heard clearly on these cuts, both featuring big choruses, ripping saxophone solos and superb singalong melodies. Cameron is a masterful performer, inhabiting the crushed spirits of the characters presented in his songs, whether it’s the melancholy of the axed showman in ‘The Comeback’, the vulgarity and vulnerability of the macho knucklehead in ‘Marlon Brando’ or the downtrodden tragi-comedy of the “drunkest, ugliest girl at the bar” on ‘Real Bad Lookin”. Like the community found in his choice of musicians, it seems Cameron has managed to create a community in his songs, his own universe populated by various losers and creeps, deadbeats and down-n-outs. Whilst performing,  Cameron manages to shift his tall frame magnificently in his idiosyncratic dance moves, oozing a confidence that is hard to not be charmed by, and there are a more than a few in the audience who attempt to emulate his now infamous gyrations.

The main set concluded with “pop song with a message” ‘Marlon Brando’, a fist-pumping anthem documenting the toxic masculinity found in men who “feel like Marlon Brando, circa 1999” and the song is a highlight, its outro refrain of “I feel like Marlon Brando” being bounced back at Cameron at twice the volume. Encore track “Take Care of Business” is described by Cameron as being “a song about strong women” in contrast to the “song about weak men” ‘Marlon Brando’ and is a slower track to end on, not as immediately satisfying as ‘Politics of Love’ or ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’, but a confident final track and there is genuine pathos in the way Cameron croons the ending lines “I ain’t half the man I wanted to be, but I took care of business”.

It looks likely that after the success of ‘Forced Witness’, and with more support slots for The Killers on the horizon, Cameron and Molloy will continue to ascend up the music industry ladder. However, whilst I’d wager next time they return to Liverpool it will be in a larger venue, I have strong hopes they will retain the same energy and charisma as seen here at the Arts Club.

Setlist

1: Stufmuffin96
2: Happy Ending
3: Real Bad Lookin
4: The Comeback
5: Candy May
6: The Chihuahua
7: Strangers Kiss
8: True Lies
9: Runnin Outta Luck
10: Politics Of Love
11: Marlon Brando
Encore
12: Take Care Of Business

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