Who is Alex Cameron?
It's Friday night at the Factory theatre in Sydney. The venue is sold out. The crowd is sweaty and ready, outside Australians are fighting each other for toilet rolls but over here, no one seems to be worried about the coronavirus-we are tightly packed together with no regard to maintaining personal space.
Alex Cameron has returned home for his first Sydney shows in three years. He now lives in the USA and is in a relationship with the high-profile actress Jemima Kirke. I am not sure which Alex is going to appear tonight. The singer, who has produced 3 albums, is somewhat controversially known for taking on various personae. His first two albums were written from the perspective of various misogynistic misanthropes.
His latest album, "Miami Memory" is a departure for him, because it is not written in character, but instead documents his relationship with Kirke. Cameron has described the album as a gift to Kirke. Ironically, the pair met when they worked together on mockumentary from which the video for the song, "Marlon Brando" emerged. The song was attacked by some critics because of the use of the word "faggot" in the lyrics.
Eventually the band, with Cameron's "business partner" and crowd favourite, Roy Malloy walk on stage. Cameron is dressed in a snazzy suit with high-waisted pants. His dance moves remind me of Bowie, but his presence and attitude are reminiscent of Nick Cave.
The setlist draws heavily on "Miami Memory" when he introduces the title song, Cameron admits to some trepidation given it contains the unforgettable line, “eating your ass like an oyster / the way you came like a tsunami”, which Kirke has clarified was artistic embellishment. The songs explore difficult topics such as abusive relationships, divorce and step parenting, but are melodic and somewhat ironically, very easy to dance to. Cameron is kinetic on stage, barely standing still, he is soon sweating heavily and has to dispense with his suit jacket. The crowd is receptive and clearly enjoying the show and has no qualms about singing along to the lyrics of "Miami Memory" a song that UNCUT said would never be sung in a festival field. But this is Sydney.
Cameron eventually introduces saxophonist, Roy Malloy to the audience. The band takes a break while Molloy does a review of the stool on which he has been seated during the show. Molloy has spoken about how anomalous it is to be playing the saxophone in a band these days. This instrument, once a staple of most rock groups is now seen as old-fashioned, although rappers like ASAP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar have made use of saxophonists lately. The banter and obvious affection that Cameron and Malloy have for one another remind me of Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Carter. One of the songs on the album, "Far From Born Again" with its saxophone-heavy intro is reminiscent of Springsteen's "Waitin' on a Sunny Day".
Cameron talks to the crowd about the difficulty of being a man in the "me too" era. He reassures the guys in the audience that it is a good thing if they are feeling confused, this is because times have changed and it is therefore it is appropriate to be feeling that way. The band then tears into "Marlon Brando", which will be the last song for tonight.
So, who is Alex Cameron? I don't think that the concert has clarified this for me, but whoever he is, I like what he's doing. I like the mix of complex themes with melodic songs, I like the self-deprecation. I can't help but look forward to the next iteration of Alex Cameron.