No matter how politely Cam enters from left of stage, looking like Dorothy in a dress she describes as her “bright silver spacegirl suit”, it’s not long before she’s apologising for her love of profanity. “If your eyes weren’t on me before, they fuckin’ are now. I apologise for saying fuck so many times already…” In moments like these, characteristically peppered throughout her show, Cam is equal parts musician, stand-up comedian, and motivational speaker, and the crowd knows just how to react to each chocolate in Cam’s assortment, with laughter and applause in all the right places. It’s a pleasure each and every time, and it’s how she manages to sell these tours without putting a new album out since 2015. There’s a perfect segue into each song, and these stories and tidbits about her life are new, not recycled from previous frequent London shows.
The first thing she says on stage tonight immediately establishes the agenda: “We’re gonna stay close, the whole show. ‘Cos you guys are the best part. You make these shows so fuckin’ fun.” Cam kicks her set off with ‘Road To Happiness’, displaying a perfect and intimate harmony with her bandmates, forgoing the drums initially to preserve the intimacy that makes Cam’s UK shows so wonderfully popular and frequent. ‘Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty’ follows. I believe she’s at her best with songs like these, the truthful and almost cartoonish romps so few artists in the genre tackle these days. A fantastic banjo breakdown leads to near endless applause, and we’re only two songs in.
Those of us who know from her prior description that ‘Village’ is the next song may consider it a strange choice in the wake of her most upbeat sentiments, but placing her magnifying glass on the tragic details of the song’s existence brings the audience right round, a collective lump in our throats. A lesser performer would not manage this segue.
Next up, ‘My Mistake’, which could almost be considered a remix. The banjo is in the lead again here, with such bluegrass touches as the beautiful and organic “ONE, TWO, THREE” yelp before the final chorus. I can’t rip my eyes off the stage when an ambiguous, dusty percussion follows, kicking in to introduce her criminally underrated single ‘Diane’. Later, she mashes up ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ and ‘Jolene’, giving the excellent support act Sam Williams a chance to come back on stage and share in the Dolly Parton-standard’s glory. Of course, ‘Burning House’ makes an appearance, albeit as a lush, piano-led revision that I would pay a lot of money for to hear recorded in a studio.
Cam assures us there’s new music coming this year and performs some select new material. ‘Forgetting You When I’m Alone’ was one enough of the crowd already knew from previous shows and YouTube recordings, showing how hungry fans are for new output. I’m not sure if the show just feels short because of how much I’m enjoying it, but it is certainly over too soon. The tiers stand all the way through the encore, which closes on a real treat with the classic Bluegrass tragedy ‘Echo Mountain’.
It’s a show like this that cements Cam’s status as a phenomenal performer, an underrated artist, and producer of an album that, even if were to never get another new song from her, will continue to age like fine wine. She’s an infinitely marketable star, being wasted in the throes of corporate incompetence. She proves tonight she could go independent any day and sustain a fruitful career. These songs have evolved plenty to keep them fresh in the long wait for new material. This is the best show Cam has put on in London so far, and it is at this point that I bestow her a great honour: there are some writers in the crowd tonight who, because of the wealth of emotion, melody and great stories, will go home and write some of their best songs inspired by Cam and her tight, whimsical, and ceaselessly versatile show.