- Jack Ladder
Is ALEX CAMERON a character? A narrator indulged to tell the story of a failed musician, and other lost souls residing on earth? If so, this character has assumed full control of the young Australian’s mind it spawned from, such is the difficulty to spot any gaps in the persona. It is clear Cameron is committed to his cause; one headily illustrated through stirring 80s synths, showerhead vocals and convulsing hips that allure the eye.
It was only three years ago, at Austin’s SXSW, that Cameron and saxophonist / business partner Roy Molloy were documenting their failed musician status. Whereas the short film tells the story of ‘a nobody’, a dedication to the same tragic persona has issued a transition from proverbial headscratcher to king crooner. The character remains. Now, it’s only those who feature in his tales of dimly lit bars and slurred love stories that are the true tragic failures. Cameron is the neon light that shines brightest in the city’s seedy underbelly. A stellar debut album, 2016’s Jumping The Shark, confirmed his status as a fallen piece of the stratosphere.
As his reputation has increased, so have the crowd sizes. Cameron’s stop at The Shipping Forecast leans closer to a sell-out, rather than the four bodies that would watch him perform only a few years ago. The summer’s eve was far from vintage. However, the temperature was soon to hit mercurial heights within the tightly knit basement.
JACK LADDER, Cameron’s emotional confidante and compass in times of grief, is on hand to open proceedings. His presence is a sombre one. Swapping between lugubrious drum machine sequences and a guitar that sprays streaming tears of reverb, the soloist cuts through the generous number of early attendees with grief stricken ballads. Each strummed chord bites harder than the impassioned jaw sounding out his heartfelt lyrics. Ladder wouldn’t be out of place indulging the karaoke in the loneliest watering holes on Route 66. His intensity is striking. A far-out demeanour allows him to become completely lost in the music; too much, almost, as he appears to forget his whereabouts at times, or whether there is another song in the set-list.
Alex Cameron is far from lost. He’s right at home on a stage, whether it be playing to 5 or 500. Lining up with a full band, including Roy Molloy, the room quickly hits fever pitch. The only respite comes when a fan wielding a refrigerated Red Stripe douses Cameron as he closes the opening song, Candy May. From there, stage energy and room temperature accelerate in tandem.
The set borrows heavily from Cameron’s debut record, however, a number of new tracks from his forthcoming effort are weaved into the set. Tracks from the former, including Happy Ending, Taking Care Of Business and Real Bad Looking, are accompanied by the vigorous body shapes synonymous with his starry-eyed character. Having graduated from holding a hairbrush and aiming his hips at the mirror, Cameron now grips a microphone and catches his reflection in fans attempting to recreate his distinctive moves.
Roy Molloy adds much to the live spectacle. On record, his presence offers a discreet texture; on stage, his bluesy fills are slicker than Cameron’s backcombed hair. And while Cameron is the centrepiece, cavorting about his patch with a showman’s ease, his band offer the necessary finishes that lift the performance to professional level. There’s no tragedy to be found before the eye – regardless of the hopeless stories careering from Cameron’s lungs.
It’s a show shrouded in silliness, and yet a protruding seriousness shines through. With each deft swivel, it becomes clear Cameron isn’t assuming the role of a self-devised character. There is an introspective sincerity encapsulated within his tales, and they spill out of the bottle when he’s given an audience.
As demonstrated in Liverpool: give Alex Cameron a stage and he’ll give it his all.