Youve heard of the new boring. Well, welcome to the new polite. So, you might ask, what happened to the arrogance and aggression that used to be bywords for rock ‘n roll. These days I tend to go to gigs where bands cant quite believe that anyone has turned up and express continual thanks that so many people have. Unable to comprehend the scale of their popularity, these artists deluge the audience with appreciation and humility. Summer Camps proud homecoming at Londons Scala was another case in point; two incredibly civil and well-spoken musicians who made the capacity crowd feel they were their best friends. Actually while egos still have their place, the new polite might stand a better chance of achieving world peace.
“Everything changes when you grow old” is the first thing you read on the Summer Camp website and Wednesday night was all about youthful exuberance. It was mostly a young crowd; female biased and included an uncommon number of girls who use Ugly Betty as a style guide. Summer Camp seemed to have taken a cue from this too with guitar and synth man, Jeremy Warmsley, resplendent in a bulky blue Hawaiian shirt and the lovely songstress, Elizabeth Sankey, in a dress that could have doubled as a beach towel. Joined by a drummer friend of the band (later civilly announced as just William), Summer Camp made an immediate impression opening with their albums title track, Welcome To Condale; its irresistible “Coming home” chorus countering the darker images painted by the main lyric.
Breezing through songs from Condale and one from the Young EP, theres a sense that the band are coasting a little. Though now and then sounding over-nasal in the mix, Sankeys voice has surprising power and managed to soar over what was at times an uncomfortably dominant synth bass; the kind that makes you want to see a stomach surgeon. Warmsleys guitar has a sharp tongue and cutting edge but the crowd reaction was no more than approving. It all changed with the high energy guitar intro to Down which signalled an upward curve reflected by the audience response. It was followed by an absolutely stellar vocal line from Sankey on the atmospheric Done Forever a kind of Debbie Harry meets Florence moment.
Buoyed by this success, the band introduced a couple of new songs of which (Give Me) Life especially shone out. A big chord opening prepared the way for some classic 80s synth pop that called to mind New Order or a more joyful division. Sankey out battled the progressively louder synth bass and pounding drums with another towering vocal performance. If this wasnt enough crowd pleasure, what followed next was one of those precious live moments as the duo decamped to take a stroll among the crowd, treating us to a wholly unplugged version of Losing My Mind. Those chatting quickly fell silent as the serenade continued with Sankey stopping to flirt or pose while maintaining a pitch perfect vocal. Magical stuff.
They could hardly fail, following this with the ultra catchy singalong Ghost Train and their summer anthem, Better Off Without You before closing the set with the darkly emotive I Want You played to an appropriate backdrop of footage from John Hughes Pretty In Pink. Sankeys vocal strength and ability to hold ultra long sustained notes put the inevitable bass boom in its place. There could only be one you wanted. Encores were fully merited and duly delivered in the contrasting shape of Fleetwood Macs Everywhere, given a soft acoustic treatment, and the pulsating fuzz of Brian Krakow with Warmsley now stepping up to take the lead. This band already has an impressive catalogue of pop tunes that stay with you in the way that classic songs do. Much of the duos content deals with coming of age and as a live act that pretty much sums up where Summer Camp is right now. Should be interesting to see what the next age brings.
Photography by (c) Nathan Dainty - www.verycreative.me.
Welcome To Condale
Last American Virgin
Nobody Knows You
Round The Moon
(Give Me) Life
Losing My Mind
Better Off Without You
I Want You
Everywhere (Fleetwood Mac cover)