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Review: BC Camplight @ SWX

On his biggest tour yet, Rae Ferner-Rose witnesses the unpredictability and brilliance of BC Camplight.

By Rae Ferner Rose, 3rd Year Liberal Arts

BC Camplight is truly in a league of his own. I went to the show at SWX with my dad, who I quickly realised was more the typical demographic of the show than myself. Preceded by a lively support act, Personal Trainer was made up of a generous handful of oddballs that set the tone nicely for the main event.

From the very beginning, every component of the show - from the visually dynamic lighting, the stage shrouded in dry ice throughout, the bottle of wine brandished by BC Camplight as he entered the stage – it all cried out for a long-awaited audience. Straight into the title track of his latest album The Last Rotation of Earth, the crowd took no convincing right from the get-go. 

As a musical talent and multi-instrumentalist, Camplight is undeniable. Both Camplight himself and his band shined with impressive vocals and compositions. The slippery nature of comparing BC Camplight (Brian James Christinzio) to any other act or group around at the moment is perhaps the best indication of his brilliance. Although I was disappointed at the lack of material from Camplight’s earliest album Hide, Run Away on the set list, the lack of his early material was understandable given its failure to gain popularity. As Camplight jauntily pointed out, his third album How To Die In The North ‘set records for its lack of charting.’ That is not to say that the new stuff isn’t also fantastic – the standouts for me were I’m in a Weird Place Now and the final encore Atom Bomb – a truly soul crushing ending – as he put it, he couldn’t have his audience going home happy. 

Clearly enjoying a much-missed spotlight, Camplight’s stage persona walks the tightrope of charming self-awareness and all out narcissism with his constant allusions to his lack of musical success thus far. As we were reminded several times throughout, he has only gained notoriety from his latest album The Last Rotation of Earth. But the weathered nature of Camplight’s act is what makes it such a gem. With the obvious battle wounds of performing to much smaller crowd for 20 years, the chemistry Camplight maintains with the crowd is tangible. The interludes have a feel of complete and often brutal transparency. Whether he’s telling you about his fiancé of 9 years leaving him or his long-standing and ultimately futile attempt to win his mother’s approval, every anecdotal second is as excruciating as the last, and yet it is all hilarious.

Still, Camplight maintains an enigmatic presence on stage, holding his audience at arm’s length whilst somehow also drawing one into the embrace of his authentic emotions and feelings. At one of the most emotional moments of the night, solo at the piano, Camplight interrupts his own heartbreaking ballad Ending on a Low Note to point out the brilliance of his own lyric. 

With live music feeling more and more choreographed, Camplight’s set was refreshingly unpredictable. Still, there was a duality to Camplight’s stage presence, it almost felt like having obtained the crowd he so deeply wished for, and deserves, he was almost uncertain of what to do with it. At moments of loud applause (and one slightly-too-enthusiastic whistler) Camplight heckled the crowd with his signature acerbic wit. At times the presence of such an enthusiastic audience seemed almost overwhelming, begging the question, after all this time can he take the compliment?

Featured Image: Faber Alt