Saturday, May 06, 2006Like Tarantino In The Movies
I was slightly apprehensive about the Isobel Campbell gig. I'd read several cool reviews of her shows and heard negative responses from friends who'd been to see her on previous dates. I'd read that she doesn't like touring, I knew that Mark Lanegan would not be joining her on this tour for the album they made together, Ballad of Broken Seas...and she was in Belle and Sebastian (apparently the nicest of bands) and then LEFT! I love the new album so much. It's so dark and drama-filled, every moment feels 100% Tarantino, lush minor strings, surf guitars, Lanegan's gravelly sinister drawl and Campbell's haunting whisper, the drama occasionally making way for major-key moments of relief which have a similar effect to comparable moments on Nick Cave's Murderballads; that half-time, gritted teeth sigh. Buy the album and listen to it for yourself! Anyway, the prospect of even a glimmer of the drama being captured live was enough to get me to Magnet for the gig.
I'll be honest, the gig started badly. Isobel's vocals were barely noticable and she seemed quite disinterested in being there, unsure how to act on stage. After two songs a man called out, very politely in English with a very soft German accent "Isobel, we can hardly hear you". Isobel laughed and said "I know, but this is a rock club, right, so you know, go and speak to my manager about it", humour not quite apparent in her voice (even to a fellow Scot). After a while she seemed to loosen up a bit (or as a German friend put it, "aufgetaut" = thawed) and her voice could be heard stronger, whether that was a soundboard or personal change, we'll never know. By the end of her long set she was an altogether different performer, dancing, telling stories and feeding off the brilliant Eugene Kelly, formerly of the Vaselines and writer of Son of a Gun as covered by Nirvana, who sung Mark Lanegan's parts, bringing a much more Scottish flavour to the music, but with an equal level of sinsiter drama.
After the show I read a journal entry of hers to see her perspective on touring. It's important to remember that those who are creative and musical may not be also natural performers. And those who can perform are certainly not all creative masterminds. To a certain extent this makes you realise how lucky some people are to have it all, but it makes you appreciate more when people like Isobel Campbell take their album out on the road to give people what they want, when it's far from the easiest thing they could be doing. And when she got it right, it was so so good.