Maturity is the mother of reinvention 

Alfie Zappacosta not stuck in the ’80s

Who: Alfie Zappacosta

Where: MY (Millennium) Place

When: Saturday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $17 - $20

The ’80s are back in a big way, so it’s not surprising to see Alfie Zappacosta’s name on the bill at MY Place this Saturday evening.

The Canadian singer had a string of hits during the retro-chic decade, soaring power ballads like the David Foster collaboration Nothing Can Stand In Your Way , and the Canadian chart topper We Should Be Lovers. He took home the Most Promising Male Vocalist Juno Award in 1984, participated in the Canadian recording artists’ famine relief project Tears Are Not Enough in 1985, and guest starred on an episode of Canadian TV staple program Danger Bay in 1986. He even had a song on the soundtrack of the ultimate ’80s chick flick, the one, the only Dirty Dancing.

But even though girls may be rocking out legwarmers and sweatshirts with the necks cut out of them again, don’t expect to see a teased mane of hair or slouchy Miami Vice-style suit on Zappacosta. The artist is quite happy to have left that era behind.

As the ’80s became the ’90s and the ’90s have become a new millennium, Zappacosta’s style and material has matured along with the man. There may be an old hit or two on his set lists these days, but only with the melody stripped bare, then taken down and accompanied by a low-key jazzy arrangement, rather than bombastic drum bridges and blasting synths.

It’s easy listening, he says. Soft. Relaxing. The kind of music you put on to curl up by the fire. The kind of music hot-headed young singers would rather puke than admit they play.

It seems Mr. Zappacosta has reinvented himself as a crooner, something he proudly declares suits his age, his mentality and his current artistic vision.

"You have to reinvent yourself," he emphasizes over the phone from his home in Edmonton.

True to form, while young go-getter Canadian musicians set out on pilgrimages to Toronto, Zappacosta has gone the other way and moved to the Alberta capital. It’s a place with a laid-back vibe he fell in love with during a stint in the mid-90s performing the lead in a musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"Been there, done that, got the rash," he quips at the suggestion that as a performer he is somewhat of an anomaly for wanting to go where the action isn’t. "Based on communications these days it doesn’t matter where you live. I like living here because it’s quiet."

Right now his voice is a bit gruff, and he sounds more like a tobaccy-chawin’ prospector than a silken Sinatra crooner. Either that or a bit like another well-known pop-rocker that’s turned to old jazz standards – Rod Stewart.

"He’s doing incredibly well," says Zappacosta. "The people are maturing with him... I know you have an audience who want to hear you doing the old tunes, but you’re getting older, you’re sagging here and there, you’re getting tired of doing them all the time. You become a parody of yourself."

If Zappacosta continues to reinvent himself he’ll never have to fear the aging rocker parody conundrum.

He’s broken up his two singing careers with musical theatre. His new album, on target for an end of the month release, is filled with lush orchestral arrangements and further cements his new identity as a jazz singer. There’s also the lead in the upcoming Canadian film Halo and a role in the National Arts Centre’s production of Frankenstein in Ottawa.

His fans, he says are "maturing alongside me like fine wine," which is why he now chooses to play auditoriums, plush seat theatres and refined jazz clubs instead of "any old honky-tonk bar."

Taken that way, Zappacosta the crooner sounds like a perfect fit with MY Place, the hub of high-culture in Whistler with its wine bar and art-gallery foyer. It’s a bit different than Buffalo Bill’s, a true club atmosphere that suited perfectly Zappacosta the mainstream radio rocker.

He remembers a show there, "a billion years ago!" and chuckles to think that the club is still around.

"It was about 20 years ago," he recalls seriously. "When I was a hi-falutin’ ’80s pop guy."

Those looking for an ’80s revival should probably save their energy for Tommy Africa’s ’80s night on Monday, but those who want to see Alfie Zappacosta sing easy listening jazz will want to show up at MY Place on Saturday evening. Part of the Whistler Arts Council/Millennium Place’s 2003/04 performance series; tickets for the show are $20 for adults, $17 for students and seniors. Zappacosta takes the stage at 8 p.m.

Call 604-935-8410 for information.


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