Cabaret Festival Review: Paul Capsis with Jethro Woodward & the Fitzroy Youth Orchestra

Capsis live is a religious experience. His latest avatar is Rock God, and in this show, he performs a dozen rock, pop, R’n’B, jazz, theatre and whatever songs.


Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 14 June, 2019

His hawk-nosed profile is almost as widely recognised as the Queen’s. His hooded eyes warn, seduce and glare. His angular body goes where you least expect it. You need to watch him. And listen. And sense, beneath the sound and vision, an extraordinary artistic intuition, fuelled by grace, hope and love. Capsis live is a religious experience. His latest avatar is Rock God, and in this show, he performs a dozen rock, pop, R’n’B, jazz, theatre and whatever songs. It’s useless to say whose version he does. Aided by the fine arrangements of his musical Director Jethro Woodward, Paul Capsis has simply crafted his own unique take on each song.

Capsis first appears in a plethora of vari-lights, dressed in a shag-pile coat and fur pill-box hat. Beneath that it’s black leather – a tight-fitting biker jacket and painted-on pants. Under the jacket, glittery mesh waistcoat and black-sequinned top. It’s rock, reimagined.

The show starts with a blistering reading of Ego Is Not A Dirty Word (Skyhooks), and rockets upwards from there. Sonny Bono’s Bang Bang becomes a protracted three-act opera. Capsis does Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black in her perfect grinding whine. Ragovoy & Berns’ Piece Of My Heart runs the dynamic gamut from whisper to scream, and back. Fogarty’s Proud Mary is given Nawlins swamp rock treatment. And the musicians stay in complete lockstep with Capsis at all times. Despite the array of vocal effects he brings to his playlist, Paul Capsis’ voice is wholly at his artistic disposal – pinpoint accurate, flexible, finely managed, dynamically startling, and always truthful. His is a voice of integrity.

Musical Director Woodward, who plays piano, guitar and mandolin, works with a band of gifted, versatile musicians, including Nick Murray on lead guitar, Dan Whitten playing acoustic double bass and tuba, and Ralph Rehak, the especially muscular, singletted drummer. The programme is so diverse in both genre and feel, that it would challenge any band to accompany and contribute to the artistic whole. This band does, and they deserve high praise for it.

Outstanding in a show filled with diversity, quicksilver wit, vocal gymnastics and sheer artistry, is Capsis’ performance of November, by Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs. The song, from ‘The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets’, which Capsis did recently at Malthouse, Melbourne, is superb.

Near the end, when Capsis sings Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, there is almost a sense of prophecy in his performance.  Finger pointed directly at us, he sings tellingly ‘You’re gonna reap just what you sow’. His final encore, the classic Feelin’ Good (Newley & Bricusse),  builds into a latter-day sermon. Paul preaches with conviction, his voice, face and body the vehicle for his formidable musical and theatrical art.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Rating out of 5:  5 stars. –  I’m a believer

Venue:  Adelaide Festival centre – The Famous Spiegeltent
Season: 14th – 15th June, 2019
Duration:  1 hour, 10 minutes
Tickets:  $69.90  /  $64.90


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