Alfie Zappacosta Returns to Thunder Bay for Series of Shows
By Matt Prokopchuk
“A very intimate show” is how Alfie Zappacosta describes what audiences can expect from a series of concerts he’s performing in Thunder Bay in early December. The multi award-winning singer, songwriter, and guitarist—known largely for a string of big hits in the 1980s like “We Should Be Lovers,” “Nothing Can Stand In Your Way,” and “Overload” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack—returns to the Lakehead just over a year after performing at 2019’s Bluesfest. While that gig saw Zappacosta take to the Marina Park stage in front of thousands of people, the veteran performer says he truly appreciates the chance to connect with his audience that a smaller show allows.
“They will get a wonderful, intimate show with all the hits they want to hear, and if they don’t hear [one], you ask me and I’ll try to pull it out for you,” he says in a November interview with The Walleye. “You get to do exactly what it is you like to do,” he continues, referring to playing smaller venues. “People, you can see, they keep coming back, you get to know them a little bit more and you find those are really who appreciate what you’re doing: they start asking about this lyric or that lyric and what kind of guitar you’re playing.”
Of course, COVID-19 has also played a huge part in the size of the crowd at any concert these days. Audience numbers for the three shows are capped at 50 people each, with all social distancing and other public health protocols in place. Joining Zappacosta on stage for the December 3, 4, and 5 shows at the Branch 5 Legion will be keyboardist Andrew Glover, with Zappacosta handling vocals and guitar. Without tour funding from a major record label like he had in the 80s, he says he’s become very adept at taking his show on the road while configuring his songs to a variety of band setups—whether it be only with a keyboardist, as a trio or, when circumstances allow, a full band.
That versatility has served Zappacosta well, especially during a time when playing live shows has been anything but normal. Over the past several months, he’s also played gigs in his hometown of Edmonton, as well as in Calgary and Kelowna. COVID precautions, like plexiglass barriers between himself and the crowds, have put new wrinkles into the experience from the stage. “The plexiglass, in this particular case, the way the lights were, all I could see in the plexiglass was me—a reflection of me,” he says referring to a recent concert where seeing the audience was difficult. “It was kind of like ‘I guess I’ll play for myself,’ [so] that’s interesting. And to see […] the fact that there’s a lot of empty chairs is kind of like a weird psych.” At his Calgary show, his keyboardist was on stage while Zappacosta sang from the attached green room, still visible to the audience, but with plexiglass in the doorway.
“If your eyesight’s okay, you could look out there and see that they’re smiling and clapping, so take the joy in that and continue,” he says. “It’s obviously very doable but it’s a different world for sure.”And while the Thunder Bay audience can expect to hear many classics from Zappacosta’s vast catalogue, the musician isn’t solely relying on past glories these days. He says he’s recorded a new album, called Saved, which is set for release in early 2021, and has signed with Alma Records in Toronto to promote it. The album will feature a blend of the various genres he’s worked in over the years, including pop, rock, and smooth jazz, with his sense of melody and voice the key links. “If you can imagine, since the 80s all the way to now, it’s got elements of all that crashed into nine songs,” he says.