Monday, August 25, 2008


I've been conditioned to expect gigs these days to be curfewed, particularly at Manchester Academy venues. So I'm used to a 11pm finish. Tonight The Hidden Cameras played Club Brenda's Alternative Mardi Gras Extravaganza with doors opening at 10.30pm, first act at 11.15pm and the whole shebang finishing at 3am. Nothing a large pot of coffee before going out couldn't solve.

Now We Got Tickets is a great service, easy to use and reasonable fees. But come on. An on-screen confirmation and a print-at-home email message is NOT the same as a ticket stub!

Ruby Lounge was HEAVING. Busiest I have seen it. And it makes much more sense as a club rather than solely a live music venue; lots of corners and alcoves and sections, plenty of space to spread out.

Bit later than advertised, with a brief intro from MC The Divine David, The Hidden Cameras took to the stage. This is the first time I'd seen the band live. And I realised it was also the first time I'd actually seen what they look like. And they are a rum bunch.

In the seven piece (drums, bass, guitar, two keyboards, violin and cello) there several players who look like standard N. American indie-rock band members. Then there is Maggie the keyboard player who with vintage cotton-print dress, immaculate red hair and glossy lipstick looks like she belongs in a 1950s set drama like Madmen. Then the other keyboard player and the drummer appear to be Central Casting extras for a low-budget frat college comedy wearing between them a towelling headband, oversize baseball hat and a t-shirt with day-glo aliens on it.

Then there is band-leader Joel.

Joel was getting shouts before he even took to the stage. And you can see why. But rather than the romantic indie-gospel troubadour I was expecting he looks like a US military marine on R&R: denim jeans, tight grey t-shirt, severe cropped hair and even more severe cheek-bones. And when he sang, even on a slower number like Awoo, he appeared to be in pain: mouth contorted, neck muscles straining.

The set started slowly with two new (or new to me) songs in the first three but then things quickly picked up pace. Hidden Camera songs are big on melody and range from floaty to frenetic but live they add fierce too: lots of on-stage screaming and leaping about as well as Joel's pained facial contortions. The whole thing is infectious and jubilant. And it all peaked with the encores, first an exceptional Ban Marriage with the crowd singing, leaping and still shouting for Joel, and then synchronised dance movements to Breathe On It. "Gay church folk music" doesn't get any better.

The Set List:
[new song]
Follow These Eyes
[new song: Hypnotise?]
Death Of A Tune
Day Is Dawning
Learning The Lie
Hump From Bending
A Miracle
In The Union of Wine
Smells Like Happiness
Music Is My Boyfriend
Ban Marriage
Breathe On It

The Hidden Cameras
Awoo [BUY]

The Hidden Cameras
The Smell Of Our Own [BUY]

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