Oberhofer - CAMP Basement, London 18/04/12
Fresh from their set at Coachella, and heavy with buzz-band hype, Oberhofer's performance this evening promises to be a ray of American- popified sunshine through the gloom of the London April evening, and anticipation is high.
Before they appear, London local boys Fanzine take to the stage in front of what, to begin with, is a criminally under-filled room. As soon as the hazy, reverb drenched guitars and mellowed-out vocals sweep through however, it's almost as if the warm sounds are drawing people off the Shoreditch street into the darkness of the underground setting. And, by the time the band are thundering through the the final bars of 'My Stupid Brain', the space is filled with people swaying, lost in the nostalgic guitar noise. It’s akin to the kind of sound which New Jersey surf-rockers Real Estate do so well, but with a distinctly British charm, and an energy which is a refreshing start to the evening.
Wild Palms soon follow with a set largely made up of effects-laden falsetto vocals and indie-pop sounds, noticeably separate from what we've heard of them on record. Live, the band seem to go further into their pop sensibility, and it fits singer Lou Hill's voice, and this evening, rather well. This, however, is not his most noticeable onstage feature. Instead, it's the almost-but-not-quite Ian Curtis-esque dad-dancing which largely holds the attention. It's charming in a gawky sort of way, but it’s somewhat tempting to give the guy a hand by running back stage to find him a guitar to hold, whether he can play it or not, just so he'd have something a little less awkward-looking to do while he's not singing. Nevertheless, the band throw out a set of energetic upbeat fun and leave us smiling, ready for the main act.
It’s not long before curly haired Californian Brad Oberhofer flounces out on to the stage, ready to fill us with his gravitationally lovely guitar pop. There's the rest of the band too, of course, but there's little doubt from the first few moments that this is a one-man show, even if you were left unsure by the band being named after the singer.
It's a shame, really, but the seemingly emotionally sincere pop loveliness of many of the songs from Time Capsules II (the band's debut album, released this year) don't quite gel with the extravagantly American showmanship which characterizes the performance. Gone seems to be that sharp edge of sadness which surged under the blissful current of danceable tunes, and, instead, a distinct note of the contrived seeps through into the songs when they’re played tonight.
Nevertheless, 'Gotta Go' fills the room with what could be sing along lyrics; 'I don't want you to go-ooh-oohooh-oohooh', attractively fun guitar riffs and unmistakably tight drumming. 'Away Frm U', too, is full of the sounds of perfectly engineered hooks, and American pop-punk vocals but, unfortunately, these moments, and really, the music in general, is somewhat over-shadowed by the show's protagonist, and his unfaltering sense of self-importance.
There are times, I know, when jumping from the stage to traverse the bar, wireless guitar system in place, might hold some kind of rock n' roll charm. Taking the mic stand out into the audience to sing a few notes and then flail around it in a circle, repetitively strumming simplistic chords might too be an entertaining spectacle, when done with some charisma in the right situation. Somehow though, Obehofer doesn't quite pull it off, especially since the audience is largely silent, and staring, blank-faced into iPhones, experiencing the spectacle vicariously, and awaiting the moment they can upload to Facebook. Punkrock, this ain’t.
It's a shame too, because if the audience was allowed any time to focus on what the rest of Oberhofer - the band - were up to on stage while Oberhofer the one-man show was prancing about, we'd probably have noticed how well written and fun the hook-laden pop songs are, even if they are missing their sinister edge. But again, all this is blurred by the constant and almost cringe-worthily in-genuine requests for the audience to 'come hang out with us in California'/'New York' (he doesn't seem sure which) and a performance so desperate to be spontaneously fun, that it ends up feeling completely the opposite, and leaves the music, which is essentially what we all came for, feeling entirely secondary.
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