Concert Review: Alex Cameron

Concert Review: Alex Cameron

Alex Cameron seems to have arrived with a fully-formed persona.

Alex Cameron seems to have arrived with a fully-formed persona. While many musicians work hard on their songs to the point that their on-stage antics are an afterthought, the Alex Cameron we see is a fully contemplated, tongue-in-cheek amalgam that falls somewhere between Bowie during his Young Americans phase and Springsteen’s (faux?) earnestness.

Just consider the way he moves, legs half-bent in a perpetual almost squat. Watch Cameron’s music videos or check out this photo. They really say it all. Time and effort went into perfecting that image and, considering the response Cameron received from the sold-out crowd at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge, he is definitely doing something correct.

But let’s rewind to last summer, specifically Cameron’s Galaxy Barn set at Pickathon. Partway through the show, some dude pushed his way up to the front of the stage, shouted Cameron’s name and then dropped a hot dog at his feet. The disgusted Cameron asked the perpetrator to remove the wiener, but the guy simply said, “I’m out!” and took off.

History sometimes repeats itself and once again, the hot dogglar (Hamburglar, get it?) repeated his foul deed, this time dropping two franks in front of the singer. For someone so committed to performance art, it would be easy to believe such a stunt was scripted. Yet, when the guy threw one last hot dog at Cameron during the final song, the singer thanked the crowd, said, “That’s a wrap” and never came back out for an encore.

Sausage incident aside, the Doug Fir show should affirm that Cameron’s hard work has paid off. Although the Australian musician self-released his debut, Jumping the Shark, in 2013, it wasn’t until Secretly Canadian gave it a proper 2016 release that his profile in the United States took off. His sophomore release, Forced Witness, followed last year. In concert, Cameron focused mainly on his newer songs, work that he described as “an investigation into the straight white male condition.”

Flanked by five musicians, including saxophonist Roy Molloy and opener Jack Ladder on guitar, Cameron’s set felt more polished and fleshed-out than his summer Pickathon performances, where he played with only Molloy and bassist/guitarist Justin Nijssen. The live drums added more depth to his sound but also nosed Cameron’s act closer to “actual band” rather than “performance art.” It makes sense, as Forced Witness moves away from the synth-heavy songs from Jumping the Shark, showing more of a ‘70s pop sound.

Although Cameron is easily the shining star in the act, the deadpan Molloy spent a few minutes giving a full review of the stool the venue provided for him, rating it a 3.5 out of five. It was a surreal, yet fitting moment for an evening full of gyrating singers, hot dog throwers and tongue-in-cheek songs that had the crowd singing along without abandon, even if they shouted a pretty nasty slur for homosexuals without batting an eye. Straight white males, indeed. Keep working those hips, Alex. The future is bright indeed.

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