Camera Obscura / The Essex Green Barrymore’s Music Hall, Ottawa ON - January 30

The lone songwriter of Camera Obscura, Tracyanne Campbell, has a bit of a reputation for being a grumpy Scot. In interviews, she never quite opens up and is bluntly evasive at times. In concert, she never quite acknowledges her audience and, well, things never really get exciting. So, did she live up to expectations? Well, before the sold-out crowd could render their verdict, it was up to Brooklyn, NY retro pop specialists the Essex Green to bop and swoon their way into our frigid hearts. Although there was nothing technically wrong with their performance — it was in perfect harmony and the songs were solid — they just didn’t sell their product very well. The persuasion to let go of one’s inhibitions and jump around was not there. But, once they left and the pixie-ish Campbell and five band mates showed up, the audience changed considerably. Relying heavily on the recent Let’s Get Out Of This Country, the rather-large audience’s enthusiasm seemed to melt Campbell’s heart — so much that the band even took requests. One audience member, after a slower piece, asked her to tell a joke, to which Campbell retorted, "Is it that bad already? You want me to do some comedy?” Although Camera Obscura have a lot of slower, patience-baiting pieces, the sheer genius of their melody usually keeps the attention going. The upbeat "Let’s Get Out of this Country,” to which Campbell imported Paul Simon’s "You Can Call Me Al” into the climax, was actually trumped by the closer, "Razzle Dazzle Rose.” A slower, layered piece, its fragile vocals and haunting trumpet don’t usually play well in cavernous venues, but it filled this one admirably. Indeed, as the band strummed furiously on their guitars and the lone trumpet floated above it all, the audience clapped furiously in appreciation. Campbell might be the centre of attention, but, in the end, it was the music that won everyone over.