Review | BC Camplight at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: 'An approach that always keeps things pleasingly off-balance'

Early on in the set, Brian Christinzio compares his life to a ‘Stephen King story’ and advises anyone in the audience not familiar with his biography to look it up on Wikipedia.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:20 pm
Brian Christinzio of BC Camplight at The Wedgewood Rooms, October 28, 2021. Picture by Paul Windsor

It’s a life which takes in bad timing, drink, drugs, mental breakdown, deportation and the death of a parent.

And it's a story which has been told over the course of his last three albums – known collectively as The Manchester trilogy, as it traces his life from the time he decided to relocate from the US to the UK.

This might all sound like a recipe for a rather bleak evening, but it is testament to the Philadelphian's talent that it is anything but. He laces his songs with dark humour and drops in autobiographical detail between tracks to give context – it's safe to say he's not a fan of Theresa May and the Tories.

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The most recent album Shortly After Takeoff was released last spring, and this tour should have followed. While the album was expected to help break BC Camplight to a bigger audience, as Christinzio points out, pushing singles called Cemetery Lifestyle and Back To Work during a pandemic can be somewhat problematic.

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But they're here now and there is a healthy turnout for BC Camplight's distinctive genre grab-bag, which takes in Americana, funk, psychedelia alongside some prog-esque time changes and abrupt shifts in style – there’s shades of The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev.

Christinzio is front-centre during the set, either on piano or guitar – and on more than occasion, swinging his piano stool over his head.

His five-piece band are exceptional – particularly Francesca Pidgeon on everything from synths to sax, guitar and cowbell. Not to mention her backing vocals which compliment and contrast Christinzio's own vocals.

There's something about Christinzio's approach that always keeps things pleasingly off-balance – the audience is never quite sure at first listen where a song might go, lyrically or sonically.

The closest we get to typical ‘singer-songwriter’ introspection is when his band leave him mid-set and Christinzio performs a solo I Want To Be In The Mafia, about his time in a mental hospital. It's a stark, beautiful song, and you could hear a pin drop during its quieter passages.

Current single, I'm Alright With The World is a gorgeous slice of hope and optimism which has been getting some good airplay on the likes of 6Music, but it’s slotted in here without announcement between Shortly After Takeoff's title track and Midnight Ease from 2018's Deportation Blues.

The penultimate song is the aforementioned Cemetery Lifestyle, a massive slab of off-kilter '80s new wave with parping synths, before the set finishes with the blow-out of I'm Desperate. There is no encore.

If there is a quibble it's that the gig is over all too soon. Still it's better to leave us wanting more.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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