Alex Cameron – Gorilla, Manchester – 06/12/17

‘Have you ever seen a lion take down a gazelle?’ asks Roy Molloy – Alex Cameron’s saxophonist and ‘business partner’ in the second paragraph of the rider sent to the management of Gorilla. Molloy declared that this was the ‘peak performance’ Alex and his touring band were hoping to achieve that evening. Having read the rider in full, which was made public on Twitter by its recipient, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, given Molloy and Cameron’s formidable working partnership, I was certain it would be expertly done. Indeed, these guys are professionals – they mean business.

For those of you who don’t know, Alex Cameron is an Australian-born singer-songwriter. His first LP Jumping the Shark was released in 2016 and is a record about a man who lived fast yet failed to die young. Its minimalist 80s pop instrumentals are quaint yet charming, perhaps similar to The Human League or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, as our antihero struggles to make peace with the past. His follow up LP Forced Witness is basically the same, but better. The somewhat loveable misfit described in the first LP is brought under a sharper focus, and Cameron delivers a level of sonic and lyrical grandiosity that was clearly missing the first time around. Forced Witness contains many more thoughtful ideas, such as the use of Angel Olsen’s vocals to establish a dialogue between Cameron and his love pursuit(s). The irony is, Alex Cameron’s career has been bolstered by his songs about people in professional and personal decline. He, and his associate Roy, have toured these albums across the world with the likes of Mac Demarco and The Killers over the last two years.

That dynamic duo from down-under certainly failed to disappoint during their performance in Manchester. They began by playing some of AC’s earlier material, music which the audience didn’t appear to be terribly familiar with. Nonetheless, it was Cameron’s electrifying hip-work that went down a treat. The crowd became increasingly sold on the music of Jumping the Shark as Alex crooned and gyrated along to songs such as ‘Happy Ending’, ‘Real Bad Lookin’ and ‘The Comeback’. After this, an interlude, during which Roy Molloy took a few minutes to provide his very own review of the stool he had been using that evening. He concluded through a rigorous and compelling analysis that the stool was in fact basically faultless. Make no mistake, we were watching a powerful mind at work. The unexamined stool is not worth sitting on.

While Molloy was reviewing the stool, the rest of the group were setting up to perform the music of Forced Witness. Given the sonic difference between that record and the last, this was going to be no easy task. Forced Witness contains far more sounds and subtleties. They tested the waters with the ‘The Chihuahua’. Following that, ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’, a gargantuan pop achievement which ignited the audience. At this point, we were approaching Springsteen levels of onstage energy. This certainly warranted a far bigger venue. The bass-player picked up Angel Olsen’s voice on songs such as ‘Candy May’ and the duet ‘Stranger’s Kiss’. And, amid the salty sea of ugly comments and heckles coming her way from a scattering of some quite disagreeable men throughout the evening, she delivered a stellar performance.

Regrettably, Alex Cameron and his band were given long enough for only twelve songs, which meant the encore was very short, almost unnecessary. With such a massive performance was limited by space and time itself, one can only hope that Cameron receives the recognition he clearly deserves, which would allow he and his band to perform the whole damn thing in a much more suitable environment. You’d wanna be around next time these Aussies are in town. You’ll miss a darn spectacle if you aren’t.