Camille O'Sullivan: The Carny Dream

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 10 Aug 2016
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The reliably spellbinding Camille O’Sullivan returns to Edinburgh this year with a carnival of tributes to some of her favourite artists: Nick Cave, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Arcade Fire and others. It would seem like sacrilege to shower O’Sullivan in anything less than rapturous praise. She allows herself to run away in The Carny Dream, taking us on a cross-disciplinary prowl through iconic rock and blues songs from the past four decades.

"Hello, my lovelies," O’Sullivan whispers in a familiar voice. Is there any performer so capable of shrinking down a vast space into the most intimate, eye-to-eye experience? Her band’s musical accompaniment appears to drift from the surface of the instruments and orbit her cloaked body. She then launches the lyrics out into the crowd with such ferocious, pitch-perfect delivery that it’s hard not to feel utterly bewitched.

At one point, a swing seat is lowered above the central aisle: O’Sullivan glides down from the stage and is hoisted high over the audience. It’s a gimmick, but rather perfectly characterises the combination of light peril and spectacle that so often underpins her gigs. After all, O’Sullivan is rock’n’roll collided with vaudeville.

During a blistering performance of Dillie Keane’s Look Mummy, No Hands, the room feels half the size. Her skill for navigating and shifting between moods during a song—let alone in between numbers—is something to behold. O’Sullivan possesses that rare talent: a profound artistry to create something hallucinatory and dreamlike but which feels completely electric to the touch.