Paul Capsis with Jethro Wood and the Fitzroy Youth Orchestra.
The Famous Spiegeltent. Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2019. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 14-15
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Paul Capsis IS Cabaret! Possessed with the spirit of Dionysus, anarchic, demonic and ecstatic, his body contorts to Jethro Wood’s frenzied chords on guitar and whipped up by the accompaniment of the Fitzroy Youth Orchestra (youthful maybe, but not so young on closer scrutiny). Mesmerized by Capsis’s sometime rasping occasionally gasping and always bewitching vocals, the audience gives themselves over to his gyrating rendition of the Skyhooks classic Ego is not a dirty word.” Throughout the show, the audience enters into Capsis’s bitter séance of song and banter. They are entrapped, caught up in his spell, applauding his damnation of Donald Trump, and enraptured by his channeling of Sonny Bono’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).and Manowar’s Return of the Warlord. Capsis is the prophet of the disenchanted, a self-proclaimed Jewish grandmother to Amy Winehouse as he channels Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits (November) and Anne Bredon (Babe – I’m Gonna Leave You)
Capsis is Capsis. He’s utterly unique, and some may say they have seen him before. But on his return, five years since his last gig at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and with Jethro Wood and the Fitzroy Youh Orchestra, Capsis casts fresh light on the world with his idiosyncratic style. The frenzied energy still erupts but there is a seething defiance in his condemnation of a world that since 2016 has changed. There is sadness and accusation in R.E.M’s Ghost Rider (America. America. is killing its youth)
But Capsis is not all gloom and doom and bitterness.. There is a ray of hope and his tribe sways along in a moment of optimism with Credence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary (Big wheel keep on turning. Proud Mary keep on burning) And the audience give themselves over to his spell. Capsis lets the spirit soar as he channel’s Nina Simone in Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s Feeling Good. No Michael Buble here. This is Capsis’s resolution to overcome the struggle and fight a new day against all that is wrong in the world. Dionysus the anarchic, the demigod of Ecstasis courses through Capsis’s spirit and in his performance the audience knows how he feels as he sings A new life for me And I’m feeling good
It’s a cruel world but cabaret holds the mirror up to life in the Spiegeltent and Capsis is its prophet of hope for a new dawn. And the crowded house rises to a standing ovation for a star of the cabaret.