REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on BC Camplight, The Crescent, York, March 15

BC Camplight: “This will be one of the top five nights of your life,” he proclaims. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

BRIAN ‘BC Camplight’ Christinzio may have some imperfections, but false modesty is not one of them. Walking on stage with his crack five-piece band, he said: “This will be one of the top five nights of your life.” Luckily, he had the songs and the humour to (almost) pull that off. Top five BC Camplight gigs? Most certainly.

Camplight appears like someone always in transition; seemingly always in a weird place. His songs morph and mutate, and as a performer he now finds himself on the cusp to the next level of stardom that everyone present, not least the man himself, seems to expect.

That he’s been burned so many times before on the brink of greater things would only increase the much-delayed gratification of musical justice prevailing.  

BC Camplight: “Mordant lyrics are both laugh-out-loud funny and startling in their depiction of his mental illness,” says reviewer Paul Rhodes

This was the last gasp of the Last Rotation On Earth tour (a top 40 record) and the stage was packed with musicians to bring out the many nuances in his music. Particularly credit should go to Francesca Pidgeon, Camplight’s primary foil and multi-instrumentalist. A still presence on stage, she was actually perpetually moving, switching across instruments and singing.

For the uninitiated, Camplight is a BBC 6Music staple. Someone with an outsize talent and a knack of controlling a stage. He’s a man who has drunk deeply from the well of 1970s’ AOR and Eighties’ pop and funk – but whose mordant lyrics are both laugh-out-loud funny and startling in their depiction of his mental illness.

This dark prince has the fills, if not the moves, of his more petite Princely predecessor. While you could almost imagine Prince performing Cemetery Lifestyle at one of his famous after-show parties, he might have played it as an instrumental.

BC Camplight: “An outsize talent and a knack of controlling a stage”

The 15 songs drew on the best parts of his latest record and the previous three. All of his recorded albums are scattered with the most glorious tunes, but each is uneven. In concert, he more successfully levelled out the melodic highs – such as the I’m Ugly (fast becoming a signature song) with the introspective tunes.

The capacity crowd was quiet for one song only, and that was I Want To Be In The Mafia, just Brian, metaphorically naked behind the piano. Life In A Dozen Years contained both the best and the worst; glorious melodic sections jagged by noisy, dark interludes that, while unique, may never sit comfortably with an expanded audience.

For his favourite song, She’s Gone Cold, Camplight stepped away from the clever touches and played it as a straight-up power ballad. I’m Desperate was a frenetic and amazing final song where the roof, quaking but intact previously, finally lifted off. He may not be an overnight sensation but was sensational on this night.

Review by Paul Rhodes