REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on BC Camplight, The Crescent, York, March 31

BC Camplight in obligatory overcoat and hat at The Crescent, York. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

IF you carry yourself that way and people treat you like one, doesn’t that make you a star? While Brian Christinzio, aka BC Camplight may not be a household name, he is certainly already cruising towards the upper echelons of indiedom.

His swash of mordant subjects and bright 1980s-coloured sound strongly recalls Eels. Larger than life, Camplight’s image is now fixed, overcoat and hat. He was without his customary shades, but then, as he said, he was in a good mood.

While he didn’t follow through on his threat to wander into the crowd, he was in his element. With his talented four-piece band ably re-creating his louche studio creations, Camplight took centre stage.

BC Camplight: “Charisma abounding; natural frontman”

With charisma abounding, he was a natural frontman. Never still, he had the sense not to ham things up too much. Yes. he played the keyboard with his foot; OK, he brandished the microphone pole and swigged from his gin bottle. Luckily, not too often. It left everyone straining to see what he’d do next.

The shortish set was packed with songs, as he put it, “to hit you in the groin”. If doing that makes people dance, then he’s onto something. Much of the set drew on parts two and three of his Manchester Trilogy, Deportation Blues and last year’s wonderful Shortly After Take-off.

Camplight’s music is built for the concert hall, its big bold sounds, catchy hooks and swooning melodies seem to bizarrely channel the appeal of his Philadelphia kin Hall & Oates. Only I Want To Be In The Mafia, often the emotional highlight of recent shows, fell somewhat short, the intimacy of the original absent.

Camplight in blue light at The Crescent, York

Why isn’t this man more commercially popular? Camplight releasing singles called Back To Work and Cemetery Lifestyle during the pandemic tells you much about his inherent poor career timing.

Too off-kilter to be Elton John, the surface layer of the songs is too dark to appeal to the Robbie Williams crowd. The humour and musical fun catches you later. I’m In A Weird Place Now, an alternative anthem to rival Kurt Vile, was dedicated to Selby. 

Maybe he’ll settle for loved outsider status. That doesn’t feel too leftfield a spot for Camplight to be right in the world. Hopefully he will stick around.

Review by Paul Rhodes