Concert Review: Camera Obscura, June 5, Commodore Ballroom

camera obscura live vancouver commodore

Vancouver – With the recent heatwave Vancouver has been experiencing, it would seem fitting to have a band like Camera Obscura adding to it with their warm pop sounds but their performance on Friday night was enough to to have any twee fan cower deep within their anoraks only to peep out occasionally to see if it was all over.

The show kicked off with Sacramento trio Agent Ribbons and they managed to keep the crowd entertained throughout the entire set with their power-folk-cabaret sounds complete with vintage costumes and prancing tambourine player in a masquerade mask. A bit too dark for my taste but an enjoyable performance nonetheless.

Camera Obscura finally hit the stage a little after 10 to resounding applause from the near capacity crowd, and with a brief acknowledgment they kicked off the show with a track from their latest album ‘My Maudlin Career’. The rest of the set consisted of all the favorites from their 3 album back catalogue but as the show progressed it felt like the band was just going through the motions and nothing annoys me more than bands that put on disinterested performances.

I’ve been to enough concerts in my time to know when a band is or isn’t enjoying performing live and Camera Obscura’s performance on Friday night was perhaps one of the more irritating shows I’ve attended in a long time. One could blame the old stigma that Canadian’s aren’t the most lively concert attendees but I’ve always believed that it’s up to the band performing to do what they can to keep the crowd engaged. This definitely was not the case on Friday night. Everyone at the show seemed to be enjoying themselves with loud cheers after each song and the odd dancer closer to the stage. Fairly typical. CO did nothing to encourage the rest of us to clap or sing along and during one track closer to the end of the set, Traceyanne had the gall to take a seat and pan the crowd with a solemn look on her face. I can understand that bands have a unforgiving touring schedule and may not be always on their a-game for every show, but I and every punter in the crowd expect that they at least make an effort.

Hey Camera Obscura, I like you. I’ll still buy all your albums, recommend you to friends and play your songs till no end during sunny (and rainy) days but I think you should take a step back and take a look at how your elders Belle and Sebastian approach live performances. They’ve been around for much longer and always go out of their way to put on a fantastic gig with zero pretension. I’m just sayin’….

Here’s the setlist I had created on the fly during the show. I didn’t remember the names from all the tracks played and was going to go back and listen and add them but I think I’ll put the same amount of effort as CO did and just leave it as is. Enjoy!

#1- new album (intro track?)
#2 – new album
#3 – teenager
#4 – just can’t see 2nd album
#5 – James
#6 – new album mellow
# 7- French Navy
#8 – new album I’m going date tonight
#9 – new album ???
#10 – eighties fan
#11 – songs written for girls
#12 – looks could kill


Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
Razzle dazzle rose

Photo’s from the gig can be found here.


Posted on by Vik in Concerts, Tweeview

About Vik

Father and pop culture geek, Vik is Panic Manual's designer and contributor

16 Responses to Concert Review: Camera Obscura, June 5, Commodore Ballroom

  1. Allison

    Bravo Vik, for calling out a “phoned in” performance when you see one.

    I give this review 4 meow-roww cat clows out of 5.

    Just hope they pick up their socks for their Toronto performance.

  2. Wade

    yah, their toronto show is above my $20 ticket limit rule, but i might go anyway. I love it when fans of a band give them shitty reviews.

  3. Allison

    I already bought my tickets and now I feel jacked.

    The “indie” music scene is now a super-saturated marketplace. A positive Pitchfork review launches a buzz-band into mild superstardom, extreme backlash, then bonafide superstardom if they were the real thing, and good touring has a lot to do with that. Camera Obscura’s peers are putting on the highest calibre performances and seem happy to do it while touring at a fiduciary loss. This is not the time to phone it in if they want to continue to be noticed!

  4. Vik

    Well here’s hoping it was a one off. Another thing I didn’t mention was that they were missing some pivotal instruments. I mean would it hurt to pack a violin and some extra brass with them on tour? All they had was a trumpet. I would have been nice to hear seeing as most of their tunes have an orchestral backing.

    Allison, if they have another poor performance in TO, I want you to go up to CO after the gig and just say…’You’ve changed man, it used to be about the music’ and just walk away.

  5. Ricky

    that would be epic.

  6. Allison

    I prefer this…”Without the Zeta, you’re just a Jones”

    ALWAYS wanted to say that to someone ‘hip’ to take ‘em down a few notches.

  7. Allison

    Ah nevermind. That didn’t play out as bitchy as I thought it would.

    Alright I’ll try your line if they stand around looking bored on June 27.

  8. Vik

    haha nice.

  9. adrianne

    k I think I can complete the list.. err.. more or less..

    #1- My Maudlin Career
    #2 – Swans
    #3 – teenager
    #4 – Let’s Get Out of This Country
    #5 – James
    #6 – Away with Murder
    # 7- French Navy
    #8 – The Sweetest thing
    #9 – Honey in the Sun
    #10 – eighties fan
    #11 – songs written for girls
    #12 – If looks could kill


    Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken
    Razzle dazzle rose

    but I’m pretty sure they did Tears for Affairs?

  10. warewa

    ur setlist sux

  11. warewa

    ur review sux too

  12. Wade

    Allison, do you have an extra ticket, or should I buy one?

  13. Allison

    Sorry, no spare. I’m going with my buddy Jeff. I think we are going to see the opener too, Anni Rossi

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  16. PaulaBot

    Actually, Camera Obscura was great, the audience was just incredibly obnoxious.

    I was upfront, surrounded on all sides by people chatting about their workout sets and friends and “omg isn’t this band cute??” “play That Song!” throughout the whole show. It was infuriating. Why go to a show only to talk through it? Why ruin the experience of everyone around you? Tracyanne Campbell even changed the lyrics to “Books Written for Girls” to mention when people talk through songs, which was awesome. I was pissed, and I don’t blame them for being pissed.

    Dear Vancouver, only go to a concert if you intend on showing the performers and fellow audience members enough respect to spare them the details of your boring life when we’re all there to be quiet and listen.

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