By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor
Alternative sleazebag performer and synth heartland rocker offers an entertainingly fun set but lacks a certain spark.
Having just released his crooning and synth laden third solo record, Miami Memory, earlier this month to critical acclaim, Alex Cameron represents a musician moving in an upward trajectory in both size and artistic skill.
The Australian performance artist and gutsy rock ‘n’ roller sprightly darted onto stage in commanding high spirits. The singer was sporting a vibrantly cool Hawaiian shirt that was soon whipped off for a tight-fitting white vest as his energetic and trademark absurdist dance moves took centre stage.
Cameron flirted across the stage with joyous abandon – perhaps in an enthusiastic and celebratory mood having sold-out Bristol’s The Fleece with his fast-growing stock in alternative music circles. His brand of Springsteen-esque saxophone, 80’s pop flair and perverted and ironic lyrical imagery made for an entertaining flourish of good time rock. Yet, for all Cameron’s comedic routines and pumping Steely Dan inspired Americana – a certain tenacity and intensity was missing.
Cameron burst onto the stage for an opening of ‘Bad for the Boys’ from his latest album Miami Memory making for an uplifting start, reminiscent of 1970s Thin Lizzy meets Perpetual Motion People era Ezra Furman in a cacophony of bouncing piano and sax. Cameron introduced his dedicated ‘business partner’ and saxophonist, Roy Molloy, to a roaring cheer from the sold-out crowd. Clearly a hardcore fan favourite.
While Molloy’s soothing Clarence Clemons saxophone tones usually take centre stage for Cameron on tracks such as ‘Bad for the Boys’ and ‘Candy May’, it fell unfortunately flat on the evening. The dulcet and driving saxophone swirls were left crying out for the volume to be turned up and for the full rousing effects to kick in.
A particular highlight from the early stage of Cameron’s setlist came from ‘Country Figs’ off his sophomore solo album, Forced Witness. An album that vastly grew Cameron’s cult alternative fanbase with guest vocal appearances from the likes of Angel Olsen and noughties indie rock mega star, Brandon Flowers. The track saw Cameron dip into his high concept artistry, taking on the character of a bitter and abhorrent male, plagued with disgusting misogynist tropes in a social commentary of our overtly toxic masculine landscape.
At times it can be hard to see where the character ends and the real Alex Cameron start as his lyrics paint a lurid and perverted sexual image. With a mostly male audience in attendance, the irony could be translated as rather vulgar and unsettling. Perhaps a slight worry for a gig goer unfortunately seeing Alex Cameron without the slightest of prior context. But at Bristol’s The Fleece, it seems Cameron is preaching to the already converted, a hard-core cult like fanbase.
Feels like we're doin some of the best shows we ever done you guys. And they're all selling out. Purchase tickets to the Alex Cameron UK/EU/US tour immediately or risk living with disappointment forever pic.twitter.com/x0gc1RBAlG— Roy Molloy (@MarvelousCrane) September 24, 2019
Cameron’s luscious and glistening third album, Miami Memory, took up most of his set and too provided most of the high points throughout the evening. A back to back of the industrial pop sheen of ‘Stepdad’ and the pulsating electronic gloss of album title track ‘Miami Memory’ made for an infectious and danceable treat - without delving into disastrously corny terrain as some of Cameron’s work unfortunately does.
‘Stranger’s Kiss’ from Cameron’s second album, Forced Witness, provided a further highlight from the gig. While the album version contains a lyrical guest feature from the formidable Angel Olsen, her appearance was by no means missed at the Fleece as Cameron’s touring guitarist filled in in an equally spectacular fashion.
After a rousing and splendidly fun rendition of the groovy and modern-day Springsteen strut of ‘Far From Born Again’, Cameron’s gig then ended on a unfortunate flat note. The singer’s shameless 80’s pop hark back, Runnin’ Outta Luck, closed the evenings proceedings. The overtly cheesy and pop infused track sounded more like the work of a Killer’s album filler from Battle Born than the euphoric ending to a sold-out show by an artist supposedly pushing boundaries in the alternative and indie scene.
While Cameron perhaps succeeded in curating a fun setlist that offered ample infectious and danceable Americana based riffs – it failed to deliver much else. An artist in cruise control, showcasing no real tenacity to win over those who might not already be familiar with his sardonic style and 'business partner', Roy Molloy.