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Ana Moura, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

Ana Moura, Barbican

Ana Moura, Barbican

The glamorous fado star shines bright with songs from her new, upbeat album

Destiny's child: fadista Ana Moura

“If someone asked me what fado is,” says Ana Moura, in her introduction to “Lilac Wine”, “I would tell them that it means something like this song.” And with its notes of sadness, yearning and loss – fado means destiny or fate – this classic number is a beautiful way for her to connect a London audience with the melancholy Portuguese genre. Nina Simone is one of Moura’s heroes and "Lilac Wine" is the only English song on this novo fadista’s set-list, most of which is from her new album, Moura, produced in Hollywood by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell’s ex-).

Ana Moura recorded Mitchell’s “A Case of You” on Desfado, the first album Klein produced for her, back in 2012. She’s also worked with the Rolling Stones, singing “No Expectations” and “Brown Sugar” on stage with Mick Jagger. And she collaborated with Prince. Not standard procedure for the traditional, poetic fado model – Amålia Rodrigues, who died in 1999 (Portugal declared three days of national mourning) was the genre's queen.

She’s firmly back in dancing mode and the six Portuguese women in front of me go wild, clapping and singing

That previous generation of singers tended to disapprove of electric guitars and percussion, but Moura, along with another international fado star, Mariza, insists she’s part of fado's natural evolution. And as she sings in the beautifully bouncy “Fado Dançado” – the fourth song of the night – “Diz que o fado nåo se dança, até parece” (“They say you can’t dance the fado – as if!”).

Angolan-Portuguese Moura is a gorgeous, tiny figure on towering stilettos, resplendent in shimmering beaded gowns – very glam and a bit Celine Dion-esque. She wears a long black dress for the first half of the concert, a white one for the second. Her movements are controlled, small, proud; sometimes she leans forwards as she sings, her long brown hair sweeping over her shoulders. Her stunning contralto voice is smoky, sultry and versatile; she veers between danceable, hand-clapping songs – she manages to jump around in those heels – like the irresistible “Dia de Folga” (Day Off) and “Agora E que E” (Now is the time; slightly Club Med/Eurovision) – and the soulful, doomy numbers.

One of these is the stirring ballad, “Tens os Olhos de Deus” (You have the eyes of God), which brings to mind “If You Go Away”, as covered by Dusty Springfield. In fact Dusty’s minor-key soulfulness could be a perfect source of inspiration for Portugal’s new wave of fadistas. In “Ninharia” (Nothing much) the more traditional fado is back, with the Portuguese steel guitar, played by the wonderful Angelo Freire, who’s been with Moura for several years, coming into its own. They have an obviously deep connection. And during her lengthy costume change she lets her band take over, with electric guitar and drum solos as well as keyboards and the guitarra.

When she comes back, wearing the white gown with matching heels, she has a minor blip. “I just forgot the lyrics,” she says softly, which gets a big laugh and huge applause. “I so much wanted to sing this song.” But somehow Freire gives her a prompt and she sings one of the most beautiful songs of the night, “Clandestinos do Amor”, from the film Os Gatos nåo tem Vertigens.

After “Valentim”, an upbeat, trad Amålia Rodrigues number with Freire’s accompaniment in the foreground, she’s firmly back in dancing mode and the six Portuguese women in front of me go wild, clapping and singing – they know all the words. “Desfado” is her final encore and the whole of the audience is on its feet. We’ve all got some fado in us.

@RobsonMarkie

The previous generation of singers tended to disapprove of electric guitars and percussion, but Moura insists she’s part of fado's natural evolution

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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