Lewis Capaldi: Sad songs before lunch

The before-noon slots (yes, there is more than one) at the Red Marquee typically are filled with Japanese punk bands or foreign artists making their debut in Japan. A lot of the time it’s the last time you hear of these artists, though we do once remember seeing Fiery Furnaces give a blazing show at 10:30 on a Sunday morning.

This year’s dubious distinction goes to Lewis Capaldi, a young Scotsman who, in his own words, writes “lots of sad songs.” He warned the audience beforehand to “be prepared.” But they dug it, probably because Capaldi has a hangdog demeanor and a powerful, gruff voice that puts across his version of bruised masculinity with maximum melodrama.

His lyrics are full of the kind of romantic cliches that Elvis Costello rendered ridiculous by 1978, and the dramatic structures were all the same: start slow and quiet and build into something heartrendingly loud. Actually, that stuff works, and it definitely worked on this crowd, mostly couples taking in their first show of the weekend, my guess. In any case, whenever Capaldi hit one of those extreme Joe Cocker moments at the end of his songs, the crowd invariably cheered … and he acknowledged it, stepping out of his suffering character for the moment. Consistency is the key, not authenticity.