The newly renovated Thalia Hall located in the Pilsen neighborhood is a spacious, beautiful venue that feels more intimate than it’s size would make you think. It was the first time I had made it out to the space, and it lived up to all the good things I’d been hearing over the past couple months. Making the night even better was the fact that Camera Obscura would shortly be on stage-a group I’ve been trying to see for years but always seem to miss.
Laura Cantrell opened the evening with an all-acoustic set featuring songs from her Kitty Welles album as well as her new album of originals (including “Glass Armor,” co-written by Tracyanne Campbell). She was joined by Mark Spencer on guitar and Jimmy Ryan on mandolin. I was fascinated by the nimble-fingered Ryan, his hands like a white tornado surrounding a small stringed instrument.
Camera Obscura hit the stage promptly at 10pm and started things off with “Break It To You Gently.” It was the first of many tracks from Desire Lines to be played-about half the night was newer material broken up by “French Navy,” “Lloyd I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken,” and a beautiful version of Underachievers Please Try Harder tune “Books Written For Girls.”
Tracyanne Campbell was feeling a bit under the weather, at one point calling for throat lozenges to be tossed up to the stage. It didn’t seem to effect her too much, as her voice rang true on every note. I could listen to her sing for days, but sadly the show came to an end after the customary three-song encore.
The band is really tight, which is a good thing for the most part. The downside is that all the songs essentially sound the same as they do on record, with no variation to speak of. The music of Camera Obscura is gorgeous, so even without anything new going on, the songs are all great anyway.
It was a lovely night with two great sets of music. The only downfall, and it’s a small nitpick, is that the acoustics in the venue make a small conversation in the back of the hall sound like a loud roar up front. Throughout most of Cantrell’s set all I could hear was white noise. A similar phenomenon happens at Logan Square Auditorium, where you can hear the people at the bar talking over the people playing in front of you. A small inconvenience given how nice Thalia Hall is.