It’s been a bumpy road for Alex Cameron and his friend and business partner, Roy Molloy, thus far as they plough through their worldwide tour for second album, Forced Witness. They’ve played to empty rooms and had to share beds but, now, there appears to be a changing of the tide. They’ve just been on an excellent run with mega-band, The Killers, and they arrived at The Haunt for the first of, I assume, many sold-out shows in the UK after the success of their second album. Their show at The Haunt showcased an artist enjoying an immense amount of momentum and loving every minute of being on the stage.
Label mate Briana Marela opened the show with her sparkling, dynamic brand of synth-pop. Built on exciting drum patterns and multi-tracked vocal hooks, there’s a bubbly attitude to Marela’s songwriting. ‘Feel What I Feel’ in particular is a short burst of bubblegum pop with hints of an exploration of dream-bursts that reminded me of Phoebe Bridgers.
Arriving on stage earlier than previously stated, Alex Cameron and co ripped straight into arguably his biggest song, ‘Happy Ending’. This instantly showcased the best of Alex Cameron: his voice taking front and centre, accentuating his talent as a narrative storyteller. Next followed two other songs from first album Jumping the Shark, ‘Real Bad Lookin’ and ‘The Comeback’. ‘Real Bad Lookin’ is an intoxicated oom-pah march, that illustrated the apparition of “The goddam drunkest ugliest girl / guy at the bar.” Cameron and Molloy are excellent songwriters, exploring the darker side of life but with an inviting, warm 80s pop style.
There’s no doubt about it, both Cameron and his business partner are oddballs revelling in their positions of power. After ‘The Comeback’, Cameron talked about when he first met Molloy at a young age when Molloy was shoving fresh lemons into a storm drain. He “knew they were going to be friends for life since that moment”. The wackiness continued when Molloy was given the microphone to review the stall he was sitting on, comfortably giving it a 3.5/5. There’s a silliness and absurdity to the two of them, but they’re funny and, crucially, conscientious enough to pull it off. Both of them together are a dynamic duo of sorts, too, clearly loving every minute they get to spend together.
One of the best songs from Forced Witness, ‘Stranger’s Kiss’, made an appearance. Usually a duet with Angel Olsen, this time it was performed with keyboardist and fellow Australian musician Holiday Sidewinder. It’s an excellent song that embraces the pattern of a delicate, heart-wrenching ballad, populated by a strange couple. It’s one of the most sincere moments of Forced Witness and it was quite an emotional moment on the night. Next followed ‘Runnin’ Outta Luck’, which Cameron revealed he wrote with Brandon Flowers from The Killers after he found their music by searching “new music” into Google. It’s the sort of surrealist thing that could only happen to Cameron. Throughout the night there’s a touch of Flowers to the way Cameron performs live. Whether it’s the exceptional, tight black denim jacket, the sweet, cut-glass vocals or the driving, dynamic nostalgic-tinted keyboard, Cameron has all the makings of a frontman that could sell out arenas.
Although, there’s a uniqueness to the way Cameron writes music, too. There’s almost a trace of the social-realist to the way Cameron approaches songwriting and it’s evident on Jumping the Shark closer ‘Take Care of Business’ and Forced Witness cut ‘Marlon Brando’. On ‘Marlon Brando’ in particular, Cameron adopts the caricature of a weak man, crippled by his own masculinity. “You tell that little faggot, ‘Call me “faggot” one more time…’” Cameron croons hatefully. It’s a brave move for an artist to adopt a horrible figure in case it’s deemed to be them, but Cameron rolls with it in the hope of highlighting important issues which is dutifully does.
Alex Cameron is very vocal on social media about the difficulties of being a musician, even going so far as to say that he hasn’t made a profit from music in the few years he’s been in the business. During this show he said “It’s nice to play to rooms that actually have people in it” and it’s refreshing that he and his business partner Roy Molloy don’t seem to be taking anything for granted. There’s an honesty and an integrity to Cameron’s live show and his music that makes him an increasingly likeable presence brimming with sincerity and candour. As Cameron would say, “It was an absolute slice”.