Vinicio Capossella


Written by Kieron Monks
01 Monday 01st June 2009

Capossela's appearance marked the end of a long pursuit by the talent scouts of Queen Elizabeth Hall. "Finally he is here!" announced the MC to widespread whooping. For a man who has been captivating audiences for 20 years with ten acclaimed albums, his first UK concert/spectacle is a bit overdue. Given free rein to design his own stage and put together his own cast, we were treated to giants, wizards and human piñatas - all played out against the backdrop of a 1930's circus.

Vinicio with top notch hats

Over the course of an extraordinary performance, Capossela played characters ranging from minotaur to admiral, all the while flitting between half a dozen instruments and twice as many hats. His joy was magnified by a support band immaculately attired in period get-up. "This is the first show where I had other characters," he explained to me. "Normally I have to be Medusa and the deep sea diver because I had no giant to do it for me." And why does he need such an epic set-up? "The music is very visual; I like to work with the imagination to elaborate a world, not just a sound. Step by step, brick by brick I try to build this world."

Capossela explained that the spectacle came together in a natural way. "First for me is what happens in life and after I make the show. I didn't think ‘I need a giant for the show', I just met a giant on my road." The giant is a source of great pride to Vinicio. "He's a giant in every way, not just physically, but in his mind. He speaks Chinese and Russian and cooks a very good fricassee".

The giant hassles the wizard (on stilts)

Vinicio's fascination with the freakshow is in his DNA. He lists Fellini's La Strada and Tod Browning's Freaks as among his favourite movies and fondly recounts the memory of seeing a five-legged cow ("forgotten by Noah") while travelling in America. "The attraction [to freakshows] is very primitive. All societies like to see what they don't quite believe. But for me it is also the graphics, the sideshow banners - the whole of the aesthetic."

While the trimmings are impressive, it is Capossela himself that holds the crowd in such thrall. His gravelly voice is where the Tom Waits comparisons come from, which he uses to address equally whimsical subjects. One song is an homage to the single sock, "The only creature that loses his partner more often than man." To his mind this is a universal problem: "Every country has a legend like this. In Russia there are creatures that make the objects of domestic life disappear."

Capossela treats such fantasies very seriously. Realism underpins the magic and mystery. Of his on-stage portrayal of the Minotaur he said: "The Minotaur is the part of me that devours everything, including love. I have this symbolic image of the Minotaur in the centre of the labyrinth, away from the light. He's alone, but when somebody finds him he eats him. Its a metaphor, I need someone but when they find me I destroy them. It's an old story, as Oscar Wilde says, every man kills the thing he loves. The courageous do it with a sword, the coward does it with a kiss."

Vinicio's future projects include a book to be released next week, Mr Pall meets Mr Mall, a story told in rounds instead of chapters. His tour also continues to travel the highways and byways around Europe. It seems like an exciting schedule, but Capossela laments the "strange condition" that keeps him in perpetual motion. "I live like a sailor. I travel a lot, but have just two elements; the ship and the sea. Sometimes sailors come down on land, in a city, and they imagine a continent, but after they are straight back on the ship."

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