Vinicio Capossela – The Barbican, Feb 15th

Sunday Times described him as “Italy’s best kept secret”

This is exactly what I have been waiting for! An artist that can inspire in such a way that you want to make a difference. They let you in to this world and you realise you have been missing something that you never knew existed. There’s far too much music being released in to the commercial world that lacks in musicality and creativity. I am referring to the beat driven nonsense loosely stuck together with uninspired melody. In Top 40 radio who has songs will you still be singing in ten years time? Furthermore, which of these acts will you still be going to the live show in five years? Possibly Mumford if they can hit us with a decent enough follow up after all the hype machines have finished telling them they rule the world, but that’s about it.

How have label execs let the already loose definition of HIT SINGLE suddenly become a dirty word? Bands don’t desire to have hits anymore because with it comes their life expectancy. I guess music will always break down in to era and what is hot at that point on the timeline but the artist life span is ever decreasing to the point that the music world is inevitably changing. For the better? Let’s see… Sure I can APPRECIATE cool videos and imaginative wardrobes but I don’t BELIEVE in these like I do a well written and intelligent pop song supported by the aforementioned. If it’s not human enough, it doesn’t get under the skin. People need something more close to home.

So after Francesca introduced me to Vinicio Capossela whilst in Italy last year I became a little more than curious to see how it translates live. We ventured on down to the Barbican – which in itself is an amazing complex. Whoever had the idea to do this gig must have had a preliminary vision of how it would be. For one night it brought the Italian population of the UK together to come and reminisce and taste home for the space of a couple of hours. What the audience experienced was not only an excellent show, but also a celebration of both live music and culture. Whether you were fluent in the language or not you just felt the electricity here.

A wizard came on to start the night off and introduced the band. His magic tricks were comical not only because they were performed in a half hearted, care-free manner; but also because he seemed aware of his limited ability which just added to the humour. He knew his role – what he was so cleverly doing here was warming the audience ready for the main event. His tricks were transparent and riddled with minor mistakes, this made the audience feel at ease with their company but also heightened their expectations of what was to follow…

What came next was our host in full glory as he entered the stage dressed as a Queen’s guard and sat down to the piano spouting “God save the queen’s swans”! His banter was mainly delivered in English which gained mixed responses but earned him plenty of kudos.

The spine of everything was the music! It held the night together and without the songs, I am certain there would not be the same demand for Capossela. However; this wasn’t just a songathon – everything was here from theatrics to great artistry, incredible musicianship and PERSONALITY. An emotional roller coaster of a performance that moved you for both it’s honesty and spontaneity. Capossela never allowed the performance to become stale not even for a second.

What I noticed was that he was feeling the performance in real time as the listeners did too. When they started to clap to one of the more down tempo songs he playfully hushed them up with a few quick flicks of the wrist between piano chords. He was in control here and wasn’t afraid to give direction if he felt appropriate.

I have NEVER seen such a variety of different sounds created acoustically during one performance – from theremin, saw bending, cowbells being slapped on the floor, thick chains being slinked to provide a percussive backing. There was even a miniature grand piano looking comical sitting at the front of centre stage – but Capossela still managed to chime a heartfelt ballad from it. I counted 30+ different instruments being played between the eight extremely gifted band members. Alt-folk mayhem just came to life right before me.

Just when you thought he had gone far enough things became totally avant-garde as the band entered for the encore with Capossela and another member dressed as mystical animal figures to deliver his most energetic offering Il Ballo di San Vito. The people here had forgotten they had seats and chaos seemed the only way forward for this one.

I don’t think I could ever forget this show as it crossed so many boundaries for me. It opened my mind to what live music can be. This wasn’t a perfectly rehearsed script but 2 hours of semi rehearsed Italian genius!

How is it that the really special music always manages to find you when you are not actively looking for it…

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