Hebden Bridge Trades Club
August 13th 2021
The last time Brian Christinzio played here it was a pretty dour affair as he was in the final throes of his ultimately unsuccessful battle with our wonderfully sympathetic immigration authorities, but tonight’s upbeat show was the exact opposite.
Now he’s legally back in the UK it helps that he was in a sold-out room of diehard fans packing this intimate venue, and has recruited a far superior four-piece band this time round who really add to Christinzio’s big, bold and cleverly crafted songs adding extra guitar, keyboards, sax and backing vocals.
So you get somewhere near the ambition of his splendid last album, Shortly After Takeoff, although this was only their second gig since lockdown eased. Just Because I Love You from his more downbeat Bella Union debut, and the more recent I Only Drink When I’m Drunk were slightly nervy affairs as the band and their leader settled in.
Christinzio in his cowboy hat and shirt is a hulking, restless presence as he plays guitar, hammers away at the keyboard, randomly twirls his piano stool above his head and jumps up to sing or chat with the audience one of whom shouts out ‘love you Brian.’ His laconic reply ‘love you too….Mum’ got a big laugh.
As Christinzio relaxes the complexity of piano driven songs that rival John Grant for sophistication and brutal honesty becomes apparent as he charts battles with a whole host of personal demons.
Back To Work was one of the singles from the last album, and he noted BBC Six Music were twitchy about playing it despite a very catchy riff as the title didn’t ‘really jive with the climate’ of the country.
The band departed for a couple of solo spots and Christinzio noted he was nervous about playing I Want To Be In The Mafia about his time in a psychiatric hospital, but he needn’t have worried as it was glorious in a downbeat way. Even better was an intense rendition of Atom Bomb which had echoes of Elliott Smith at his delicate best.
With the band back in place the New Jersey native was so at ease that at one point he was banging the keyboard with a wine bottle – from which he had taken a couple of swigs – as they romped through a tight I’m Alright, and I’m in a Weird Place Now, from his aptly titled second album Deportation Blues, which is certainly inspired by personal experience.
All three of his Bella Union albums were featured, and Cemetery Lifestyle was another recent single where perhaps the sentiment doesn’t quite fit with the sort of post pandemic world that finally allows gigs like this to take place. By this time his band were really cooking as they smashed their way through muscular, swap blues takes on Thieves in Antigua and I’m Desperate.
So after this joyous set if you see BC Camplight on a festival bill then make sure you add them to your schedule of acts you must see, and if you don’t have tickets for their autumn tour then you really need to get your credit card out as soon as.
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Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.