Concert Review: Seu Jorge and Almaz

Published at exclaim.ca

Seu Jorge and Almaz

Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON

August 2 

Considering his stature and the sizable audience at the Phoenix, it was surprising that popular Brazilian singer-songwriter and soul-samba pioneer Seu Jorge came out sans opener. With outside’s haze permeating the at-capacity theatre, however, the crowd didn’t need any warming up. Plunging straight into his newest work with three-piece band Almaz, it was a different experience for Jorge’s longtime fans. The brash, hip-waggling songs he’s known for were cast aside in favour of the alt-rock, samba-tinged cover tracks from Seu Jorge and Almaz.

Covers? Yeah, but with Jorge — who’s reworked Serge Gainsbourg, Elvis and done a whole disc of Bowie — it’s a sublime experience. Brazilian icon Jorge Ben’s “Errare Humanum,” with Jorge playing flute, opened the show. Between “Cristina,” Kraftwerk cover “Das Model,” Roy Ayers standard “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and the slow, almost melancholy cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” (introduced as “clasico”), Jorge conversed with crowd in Portuguese, inciting cheers from a large homeland contingent. At this point, after his familiar Bowie homage on “Ziggy Stardust,” there were calls for “more samba!” from the crowd.

They were rewarded slightly with a 30-minute-plus encore, beginning with the warm “Tive Razao,” where Jorge played guitar accompanied by a sole samba shaker. From there he moved into a small medley of more classic work — though the setup rendered it more muted than big band — including “São Gonça,” Brazilian classic “Mas Que Nada” and “Eu Sou Favela.” Jorge’s raspy, melodious, Mozzer-esque singing voice always makes his performances memorable, but it was clear the Toronto crowd — who’ve been lacking in Seu since an explosive Harbourfront Centre show in 2006 — wanted something a little more feverish.