Monday, October 20, 2008

Gig review: Camille in Camden

A Capella is a much maligned art. It's only real proponents these days are boy bands desperate to prove they can "cut it" live and Bjork's Medulla album - the sound of forty people hiccuping over a click track.

So French singer Camille Dalmais' show at Camden's Roundhouse is a revelation. There may be eight musicians and one instrument (a lone grand piano) but it's unexpectedly, utterly brilliant.

Every other noise in the two-hour show is produced either vocally or by rubbing one part of the body against another. Harmonies dive, weave and float in and out of the ether; Chests are thumped in lieu of drums; and two of the backing band tear up the stage in a thrilling improvised beatbox battle.

The audience, awed into reverent silence during Camille's solo opening, are soon employed as part of the extended band - providing foot-stamping percussion on Katie's Tea and canine backing vocals during the hilarious Cats and Dogs.

Camille herself is a force of nature. Or several of them. She growls like thunder, snaps like lightning and whispers like the wind, but always in service of the melody - unlike the ridiculous warbling of Whitney and Mariah, whose 42-notes-where-one-would-do "technique" Camille lampoons in the wicked and funky Money Note.

Yet, for all the vocal acrobatics, the night's most affecting number is it's simplest. For her first encore, Camille sits at the piano and delivers an impassioned version of Winter's Child, every inch the tortured torch-song Chanteuse.

If there's a dud note in the two-hour show, it's all Jamie Cullum's fault. The perma-grinning jazz twat is invited onstage for a faltering, improvised duet which tests the very definition of the phrase "fucking awful". Luckily, it's over quickly and Camille has the crowd back on their feet and barking like lunatics all the way home.

Or was that just me?

PS: Words don't really do this amazing concert any justice. Here's a few videos to show you just how awesome Camille really is...

Camille - Gospel With No Lord (live)

Camille - Home Is Where The Hurt Is

Camille - The Monk (now with added spaniel)

[Pictures courtesy of Phoemail on Flickr]

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