Live review from Capitan Tifus @ Backstage:
8. El Rey
9. Amor Y Mucho Mas
10. Don Pirulero
12. Bella Cia
15. Mala Vida [Encore]
16. Runas [Encore]
For the second time in their short week of being in Hong Kong, Capitan Tifus took the stage, and there was anticipation palpable in the air. Perhaps there had been, among the people, tell of a band in which, literally, everyone was dancing on stage. Or who made pretty much everyone in sight in an HK audience, stand up, dance and enjoy themselves thoroughly. Perhaps there had been tales of a band that suddenly died during a show, only to reanimate and continue playing immediately. Or, maybe it was their bohemian, slightly eccentric and fascinating appearances. Whatever it was, you could feel people willing them on to the stage. And they did not disappoint.
The first thing one would notice about them on stage is that they are a band positively buoyant with energy. Keep in mind, they were at the same level of energy for their Monday show, the same day as they had landed in HK; and all this after months of intensively touring the world. This process has worn major bands down in the past, and it’s reassuring to see bands that tour well. Their singer, Vicky, not being tied down to an instrument (except the intermittent bongo runs) made full use of her freedom, dancing with abandon, on-stage and off it (at one point even with The Underground’s own A&R man). This clearly was infectious and the people in the crowd were happily dancing along to their tunes. However, the rest of the band were dancing almost equally vigorously too; t’was a sight to behold when someone with a violin dancing. But, all for good reason, for such was their music.
Theirs is a heady, contagious sound, of which gypsy-esque Balkans tones and tunes make up largest part. However, what they cleverly do is to make their rhythms either more Latin- or more tribal sounding while still maintaining the fluid melodies that gypsy music evokes. There was also a bit of funk thrown in, as in Circo. This makes for an interesting mix, especially on their album ‘E Viva!’, where these forces can be heard melding together in different ways. However, when played live, as could be anticipated, the songs are played more forcefully, and are far more punk-tinged and more 70s rock-like than their recorded renditions. This is a wise move, and though certain subtleties are lost, this shows you a different side of the band, and also makes for a more immediately engaging show. This comes off particularly on Maradevi, and Bolsa, and the thundering encore version of Runas they did, and El Rey was almost grind-rock in feel. It certainly helps that the band are very tight indeed, and able to pull off start-stop moves and smoothly change gears in the middle of songs (which their drummer, in particular, did masterfully, along with having tremendous groove). The rootsy country-like Mala Vida, for instance, turned into a smooth Noughties pop song without batting an eyelid.
There were a couple of songs that seemed like just tokens of a style, like the samba-inspired Manha, or the light Euro-pop of Amor Y Mucho Mas, but when you’re playing an almost hour-and-a-half-long set, you can be excused a couple of misses. They have the energy of Gogol Bordello (though without the near-violence), the melodic variety of Kultur Shock or Balkan Beat Box, and the theatrical touch of Motherhead Bug. And they gave ‘prizes’ to the audience members who danced the craziest, so they have a sense of fairness too, along with their obvious sense of fun. It was terrific fun to have watched and heard them, and there are hardly better ways to finish a show than to have the audience dancing frantically, leaving them wishing for more. If they’re even in your town, or back here again, you should definitely reserve that evening to spend with this band, for you won’t regret it.
– Shashwati Kala