BC Camplight


Tonight is special for BC Camplight. He’s too cool ever to say so, but it is clear. After everything he’s been through over the last decade, to have an intimate solo show like this in the city that has become his home and has offered him the opportunities that he is finally starting to enjoy the benefits from, it has to be.

It is very much a one-off. For the first hour, he is interviewed on stage by Shell Zenner from Amazing Radio, before embarking on a one-man-and-his-piano joyride through his catalogue for the second hour. Shorn of his band, this is an exposed and grateful Brian Christinzio, and Band on the Wall is bursting with love for him.

As anybody who has been to a BC Camplight show can attest to, Christinzio has an ability to carry his real self onto the stage; in some ways, that shouldn’t even seem strange, and yet it is vanishingly rare. He shares stories in his talk with Zenner and the subsequent Q&A that other artists might shirk away from, especially his first-hand tales of the artistic and financial gauntlets that the music industry throws down to make life more difficult for struggling writers and performers. For Christinzio, the gauntlets have come from yet higher sources, too – the UK government deported him in 2015, a process he recaps tonight with a mixture of chilling horror and self-effacing triumph (he was eventually granted re-entry after establishing his Italian heritage).

In between questions, Christinzio walks to the impromptu cocktail bar that has been arranged for him onstage and fixes himself a Ribena and gin concoction that fuels his evermore honest and entertaining answers. He appears to be entirely unfiltered, whether railing against George Ezra, showering praise on Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde, speaking candidly about his struggles with mental health, talking about his recent tour opening for Suede, who he’d never heard of, or regaling us with memories of playing his first ever song (the hormonally titled ‘Raging For Your Love’) in his parents’ living room in a desperate plea for the neighbours’ attention.

An intermission, and then Christinzio is back out, nearly finished wine bottle in hand, ready to play. He tells us that a number of these tracks have never been performed on piano before, but it is hard sometimes to distinguish between the self-deprecation and the insecurity, as everything he plays is assured. He launches into ‘Just Because I Love You’ from How To Die In The North, his ability to turn a phrase on full display in these stripped-back surroundings, his lyrics sung in a seductive, husky voice that may speak to the sheer amount of touring he has done in recent months. “I don’t usually sound this post-pubescent,” he jokes.

His presence at the piano is no different from earlier in the night, constantly funny, at ease with his own unease, his mind somehow still rapier sharp despite the introduction of a replacement bottle of wine from one kind audience member from the front row. Tracks from the great 2018 album Deportation Blues are met just as enthusiastically as the older ones; ‘I’m Desperate’ and ‘Fire in England’, the latter an evisceration of Theresa May, come as requests from the crowd – indeed, Christinzio can barely keep up with the list of requests that are being hurled to the stage at one point, although he damn near plays every one of them.

Perhaps most impressive of all is his ad hoc performance of ‘Surf’s Up’, the 1971 masterpiece by The Beach Boys, one of the most notoriously complex and demanding songs in the canon, which he pulls off with aplomb. A second cover, this time of Hank Williams’ ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, seems to round the night off, but barely is he out of his seat when he gives in to the audience’s demand and plays us one for the road, a belting version of ‘Grim Cinema’.

It is no secret that Christinzio came to Manchester at a dark moment in his life. The success he has had has stemmed from the acceptance that he has felt in his time here. Tonight is a thank you letter to his new hometown, a moment to reflect on everything that has happened. Very special.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.