Seu Jorge and Almaz Live @TheRoundhouse, London | Gig Review

In a recent article Seu Jorge, arguably Brazil’s most internationally successful contemporary artist, boasted about his, then forthcoming, UK tour with the band Almaz, “I know I’m going to put the English to shame with this gig. I’ll show Oasis how it’s done!”

Well, I’ve never attended an Oasis concert but I’d hazard a guess it wouldn’t be as entertaining as Jorge and co’s performance at the Roundhouse in Camden earlier this month. Besides, Jorge visits these shores so consistently to play for his British fans that we can forgive a little bragging.

Mounting the stage at the exact time they were billed the show kicked off with guitarist-par-excellence Lucio Maio (from the group Nação Zumbi) playing a tantalising solo. He was slowly joined by the rest of Almaz as they commenced the intro of album opener ‘Errare Humanum Est’. Jorge himself then glided on, cool as *expletive*, in a hoodie and jeans holding a flute, only to surprise us with a little flourish on the instrument. Then that unmistakeably croaky baritone burst onto the mic, the reverb making it all the more atmospheric.

‘Errare…’ was followed by ‘Juizo Final’ during which Jorge alternated between skipping and strolling around on stage as relaxed as if it were a sound check. This laidback approach, however, didn’t stop him delivering a vocal that sounded as good live as it does on record.

Addressing the crowd in English and Portuguese, Jorge and Almaz went through the vast majority of tracks from their latest release including ‘Cirandar’, ‘Pai Joao’ and ‘Cristina’. Still, there were some that would have been better left off the set list, notably the dour ‘Tempo de Amor’.

The audience, largely unfamiliar with the album which only hit Europe last month, were often a little apprehensive to dance. Nevertheless this did not have any bearing on Seu who was in an especially energetic and playful mood. Jorge’s carefree performance helped to elevate the fun factor of Almaz’ live interpretation of Kraftwerk’s ‘Das Model’; something that is not immediately apparent on the studio version. On ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ Seu did the honours on synths (a man of many talents as you’ve probably discerned). The crowd suitably warmed up on hearing a song they recognised.

Thankfully Jorge didn’t neglect some of his older material. The Roundhouse roared with excitement when he launched into perennial favourite ‘Carolina’, with a rock twist this time instead of its original samba. I could have gone home satisfied knowing he didn’t overlook this tour de force. There were more Seu Jorge classics still to come but not before he returned to the Almaz album.

Their take on Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock with You’ as expected, sounded great live, Maio’s understated but inspired riff even more enchanting. On the chorus, the audience supplied the BVs missing from Jorge’s recorded version whilst the main man rounded things off with an MJ impression.

For the encore, replete with guitar, cigarette and bottle of beer, Seu returned on his own to do acoustic renditions of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ (in Portuguese) as well as a medley of Jorge classics such as ‘Tive Razão’, ‘Mina do Condomino’ and ‘Burguesinha’. The Brazilians in attendance sang along with the kind of gusto that must be every artist’s dream response. As if the enthusiastic hour and a half set the band had already given us wasn’t enough, the rest of Almaz joined Jorge one last time for a reprisal of ‘Pai Joao’ before sending us on our merry way.

It was no surprise to find that the musicians were all on top form; Lucio Maio in particular is something quite special. Yet despite his own considerable talent he was happy to play second fiddle (or rather electric six-string) to the front man. In turn, Maio got more than one opportunity to show off his solo skills culminating in a slowed down instrumental version of ‘Mas Que Nada’ that was well received.

Impressive musicianship aside, it was Seu’s highly animated stage presence that really enhanced the gig. Flashing that dazzling dimpled smile several times, Jorge’s obvious enjoyment spread around the auditorium like a friendly virus.

–Tola Ositelu

Seu Jorge and Almaz line up:
Seu Jorge – vocals/guitar

Pupillo – drums

Lucio Maia – electric guitar

Dengue – bass

Gustavo Da Lua – percussion

Seu Jorge and Almaz album is out now via Now-Again Records/Stones Throw – click to read our review.

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