After recording and releasing his latest torch-song collection last July Make Me a King, Paul Capsis did something unusual, rather than setting out to laud his talents, he “ignored” the new album completely.
Capsis’ confession unfolds two songs into the bluesy haze of this Famous Spiegeltent concert: “I went straight into the theatre instead, here in Melbourne, All About My Mother and Three Penny Opera“, the singer genuinely chuffed, relieved to be catching up with himself, crooning and contemplating his jazz-blues-gospel-rock repertoire, channeling a muse or three, paying homage to his own dearly departed, beguiling us with a song list that forms part of his biography.
Capsis is a talented raconteur, interlacing song with personal episodes, ditties nuanced with wit, polished self-deprecatory humour that his audiences adore. Shimmying, shuffling, circling the jazz trio, unable to find the narrative thread of stage musical memoir, confiding he is “drawing blanks a lot lately”, still possessed by the sojourn into mysticism that so recently enchanted him, “I’m still there, in India, the zone.”
With a bit of prompting from the crowd he is awakened from his eastern reverie into the here and now of smoky blue din on St Kilda Road, a warm autumnal night, a crowded attentive audience, reminded of the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, who inspired both the mood and title for the album release and this, his belated series of concerts.
A gritty gospel rendition of Ruler of My Heart hints at Janis Joplin vibrato which is given full flight later in the evening, Move Over, an uplifting choice of cover to close a night of melodic, cascading introspections. In between opening and closing, Capsis dances and riffs effortlessly along the octave range.
For this writer the night was a Spiegel highlight, rhythms emanating from the jazz trio led by Alistair Spence and Capsis recollecting theatre, Spiegel- speakeasy style: “This song like the others on the album are from shows I have performed in over the years, this one is from a role I performed in the nineties, I was a young Turkish boy in a play called Playgrounds by Nick Enright,“ Capsis pausing, touched by a deep sadness, “this boy had an obsession with Barbara Streisand.” Capsis’ announcing his version of Cry Me A River causes sighs of sentiment from the audience, raptures post song. His enervating Feeling Good, exorcised darkness away, illuminating the waxing moon within and affirmed Capsis as a covers impresario.
Capsis in between bookends selected from his Make Me A King album, unpacking, mimicking, transmogrifying forebears, his tongue medium-like, an octave angel streaming the dead, Joplin, Billy Holiday, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone.
Make Me a King
Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent | the Arts Centre, Melbourne
Dates: 8 - 13 March, 2011
Tickets: $49, Conc $45
Bookings: 1300 182 183
Diva's Choice with Paul Capsis
Thursday 17 March, 10:30pm. Details»