The Hidden Cameras + Gentleman Reg: 3 December 2009 – The Empty Bottle, Chicago / Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley
Chicagoans were lucky to experience the treat of seeing Toronto’s The Hidden Cameras after so long. Unfortunately the band had to cancel their last tour date here due to visa complications. For over an hour, and with no lack of energy, lead singer Joel Gibb and his entourage brought a vigorous set with guest appearances by openers, and fellow Canadians, Gentleman Reg.
The basis of many of Cameras songs is grounded in sugary pop. They are songs that can’t help but be memorable, as that is the way they were created. Their catchy hooks possess a buoyancy that could lift the most despairing lyrics. The lyrics in this case aren’t too depressing, though once in awhile they challenge the listener in terms with their political context. Their newest, and 5th full length studio album, Origin: Orphan ultimately ends up feeling triumphant, especially singles like “In the NA.”
Emerging onto the Empty Bottle stage all hooded and black robed, the band looked like the creature from their “In the NA” video. The effect was surreal and very mysterious, unlike any of the previous times they’ve played Chicago. They proceeded to begin their set like Origin, with a very epic sounding “Ratify the New.”
It wasn’t long before the band delved into previous releases and shed their dark garb. Traveling all the way back to 2003’s The Smell of Our Own the Hidden Cameras returned to some of their older material with “Breath On It” and “A Miracle.” Some songs from 2004’s Mississauga Goddam--like “Doot Doot Plot,” “The Fear is On,” and “Bboy”--were also lucky to show up.
The band's sense of dynamics is maintained a vital balance between all of the instrumentation (including keyboards, trumpets, bass, guitar, and drums as well as multiple vocal harmonies to heighten the melodic urgency.) The band played the old and new material exceptionally well, and with the kind of stage presence that ended in bringing up audience members on stage letting them join in the finale.