fri 19/08/2022

Bebel Gilberto, Union Chapel review - less effort, more transcendence, please | reviews, news & interviews

Bebel Gilberto, Union Chapel review - less effort, more transcendence, please

Bebel Gilberto, Union Chapel review - less effort, more transcendence, please

The support act, Venezuelan singer Luzmira Zerpa, strongly impressive, too

Bebel Gilberto and Guilherme Monteiro

How do we want our fleeting, precious, close-up glimpses of the royals to be? Do we want the mystique, the aura, glamour and transcendence? Or would we rather be reassured that they are, in their way, just like us?

No performer could have given more energy and dedication to a show than Bebel Gilberto did last night at Union Chapel; I was just wishing that she could have worked slightly harder at the former than the latter.

Take the final section from her encore, surely her uncle Chico Buarque's tune "Samba e Amor". There she was, lying down on the stage as if she was on the gym mat at an exercise class, her knees raised, smiling leeringly at us. Then she bounced up, let the song come to its close in a moment of beauty and repose. But it didn't last. Before the last note could die away, she was getting into a brief fret trying to force the microphone clumsily back on its stand. The audience loved it, though; within moments, a large section was up on its feet, giving her the ovation that she'd worked so hard for. I was simply wondering meanwhile what all that frenetic effort had really been aiming to achieve.

Royalty, Brazilian music royalty, she definitely is. Bebel Gilberto's mother, who died just a few months ago, was Miúcha, sister of Chico Buarque. Her father is the immeasurably great João Gilberto. This show, currently touring, was a duo set with the excellent and urbane New York-based Brazilian guitarist Guilherme Monteiro. I regretted that she never allowed Monteiro anything resembling a proper solo feature or even the tiny space needed to let him have a 16-bar see-you-at-the-bridge solo. He really should have either or both; he certainly deserved them and my feeling was that the show needed them, too. Instead, what we got was Bebel Gilberto showing her affection for the songs by never being willing to let them out of her sight for a moment. She sings them, she does wordless choruses over them, and the sheer amount of singing she was doing did inevitably and unfortunately lead to occasional lapses in intonation.

She does, however, have the benefit of some very good songs. She did a very effective mid-sixties medley pairing of Marcos Valle's "So Nice" (Samba de Verão /Summer Samba) with Francis Lai's theme from A Man and A Woman. She had fun with Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso's "Baby". And she has made her song "Aganjú", a dedication to an Afro-Brazilian deity, from her debut album of 2004 a real feature. It is the kind of spiritual jazz groove- and repetition-based song which is very much of the moment. It gets under the skin, too. And she and Monteiro also have that irresistible Brazilian way of making the harmonically more mobile numbers glide effortlessly and weightlessly through the jazz changes. João Gilberto had the divine spark, the way Vinicius Cantuaria now masters it is sublime and effortless, and the uneffacing Guilherme Monteiro has clearly absorbed their particular and special magic.Bebel Gilberto, Union ChapeThe support artist for Gilberto, Luzmira Zerpa, was an inspired choice, something which bodes well for London's La Linea Festival, another initiative from promoter Comono!, which is about to begin. The London-based Zerpa (pictured above) is from a Venezuelan musical dynasty herself, and in her short and mesmerising set brought the variety of the music of her native country completely to life. Yes, it is a country going through a tragedy, but what Zerpa did was to give pointers to some of the deep heritage of its different regions. She is not unknown: both Manu Chao and Gilles Peterson are both supportive members of her fan base. She has a totally engaging stage presence, and her leading of the call-and-response with the audience on the song "Woman del Callao" (the words "Tiene mucho hot, tiene/mucho tempo" are now stuck in my mind forever) was as effective and enlivening as I have ever witnessed.


I regretted that she never allowed Monteiro anything resembling a proper solo feature


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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