Alex Cameron is on the cusp of becoming a household name. Not that he doesn’t already have the look, moves or talent of a rock’n’roll heavyweight, but rather he comes across as a man of the people despite the fact that his schtick is pretending to be a lecherous hack. Here, in Glasgow’s Mono, the intimate vegan cafe-cum-venue, he is about to serve up a platter of synth-driven pop with a healthy portion of dad dancing. He doesn’t shy away from interacting with the crowd- even before the show. He works his way from the green room to the stage, hugging friends and shaking hands.
Part of Alex Cameron’s charm is his washed-up Hollywood entertainer bit. Forced Witness, his latest album, is artfully sleazy. This sleaze is revealed throughout the show by the band, who happen to look as if they have all stumbled out of a casino that night. Fan-favourite Roy Molloy is on saxophone and indie-pop chanteuse Holiday Sidewinder provides backing synth. As the show opens with ‘Happy Ending’ from Cameron’s 2013 debut, Jumping the Shark, Roy, Holiday and the rest of the band bop along disaffectedly to the pared back synth and drum beat.
As disaffected as the backing band appear, Alex Cameron can’t contain his excitement. He busts moves during each song, threading the mic’s cable through his hands and adopting a rock’n’roll stance. Noting the sizeable crowd, he says “we used to play to 5 or 6 people in a basement, so this is a beautiful thing”.
The enthusiasm shown by the crowd is reciprocated by the band. In an ongoing meme for this tour, Roy rates the footstool he is given by the venue (3.5/5). Introducing the song ‘Candy May’, Cameron says “I wrote this song as a love song and I played it to the girl it’s for and she started crying, and I realised it’s a breakup song” and the crowd laughs.
The song, ‘Real Bad Looking’, sounds like telephone hold music with a darker side to the lyrics. Sung from two perspectives- a woman and a man, at the same bar- their personalities are betrayed by lines like “I am the goddamn drunkest, ugliest girl at the bar/ Yeah who the hell are you to tell me that I can't leave my kid in the car”.
On-stage Alex Cameron comes across as likeable, even as he dons detestable characters through song. Although fans know that Cameron’s persona is just a character, it appears problematic in how quick the audience is to join in and sing along- particularly with ‘Marlon Brando’ in which the song’s cowardly protagonist says “So I'll tell you something sister, I'm feeling mighty fine / You tell that little faggot call me faggot one more time”.
This particular song, however, comes with a disclaimer from Cameron. He ensures that everyone is aware that the “confused straight white male” character is just a character, saying “as long as everyone is staying hydrated and being respectful, then we’re satisfied’.
Highlights of the show include a more upbeat ‘Strangers Kiss’, Roy’s saxophone solo in ‘Running Out of Luck’ (which met significant cheers from the crowd), and ‘The Chihuaha’, an electro-pop bop similar in sound to bands like Hot Chip and Metronomy.
Alex Cameron and band know how to please their audience and if they continue this trajectory of increasing popularity, it won’t be long before these Australians are back in the UK playing to even bigger crowds and rating even better footstools.