The hardest working man in showbiz was back in the UK this week
Alex Cameron will have played 99 gigs by the end of this year. No doubt his one-off-a-century will be sarcastically filed away within his arsenal of sleazy shortcomings, but if anything this show is a refreshingly unexpected dash of self-effacement and humility.
Opening is Jagjaguwar’s Briana Marela playing her new record ‘Call It Love’. Intermittently submerged within haze clouds, a strong set is hindered only with her loop pedal breaking in time for the penultimate song – “this one starts a little quiet so don’t all talk at once.”
When it’s Cameron’s turn to take the stage, the sight of the sold-out room seems to put him on the back foot, asking what the ticket price was at first, before eventually accepting that there might not be a catch to his character’s newfound popularity: “but I literally don’t know how to sell tickets.”
‘Happy Ending’ kicks things off, which sees the first contribution from Cameron’s saxophone-playing friend and ‘business partner’ Roy Molloy – by this point, a firm cult favourite with fans. Sitting sheepishly on a stool, Roy is the stony-faced pastiche of Sparks’ Ron Mael. Cameron skulks around him thrusting and stretching – his unique brand of stage posturing has a name, The Sydney Strobe – as he smoothly delivers his tragicomic tales of failed businessmen: “I used to be the number one entertainer, now I’m a bumpkin with a knife.”
The gig quickly turns into a stand-up set with a five minute interlude from Roy about the cavernous corridors that wind around the backstage of Scala, “completely devoid of stools.”
He continues: “So I borrowed this stool from the Hurricane Club next door, which you can become a member of for £20 per year, and if you bring a friend you get a £5 discount.” As he continues to rave about the soft cushion of the stool in velvety pleather, it becomes clear that an Alex Cameron show is set apart by the duo’s relationship and their dogged devotion to Cameron’s acknowledging their own deplorable characters.
On introducing the acerbic disco-fuelled ‘Chihuahua’, Cameron admits “Sometimes I like to imagine myself as a handsome German shepherd, when really I’m one piss on a bus away from being a lapdog.” He’s one bad metaphor away from being a domestic animal’s take on Leonard Cohen’s “At the times we think we’re coolest, what everyone else sees is a guy with his mouth full of banana.”
The more serious messages aren’t lost either. ‘Marlon Brando’’s investigation into the condition of the straight white male follows a damning condemnation of men in power: “This is a song about the strong women that keep gracefully making their way into our lives and teaching us about what it means to be real men… you know my dad taught me from an early age: respect your mother, do not swear in front of her, and don’t sexually harass people at work.”
But from the anthemic ‘Candy May’ and ‘Stranger’s Kiss’ performed with Holiday Sidewinder, the only downside with the show is the risk of forgetting just how good the music (and his latest album, ‘Forced Witness’) is, among all the entertainment. Alex Cameron gets it, though. “I’ve been playing in London for years, where the fuck have you all been?”
Alex Cameron at Scala, London on Tuesday 5 December 2017