It is a windy night, in London, but not excessively icy. The glacial touch of December doesn’t seem to be approaching us, this year and very few people seem to be complaining about it. This dreadful emergency of global warming is a blessing in disguise when queueing at Jazz Cafe, (not even a joke, I know) one of London’s most iconic live music gigs. Schedule for the night is Adriana Calcanhotto, a legend of the MBP genre, the so-called popular music from Brazil. A refined mixture of samba, bossa nova, jazz, with audacious incursions in parallel territories such as funk, experimental, music for children or mere pop.
Now shes’s 54, touring with her latest record called Margem, the last chapter of a trilogy started off with the 1998 album Maritmo and followed up by Maré, a decade after. The episode was benignly received and consecrated a talent, tangled since forever with poetry, authoritative lyrics and transversal wanderings.
The night is introduced to an adored audience by Celeste Caramanna, a young Italian promise who astounds the gig with her firm voice climbing ageless classics picked from a popular yet recherché repertoire. Not bad at all for a starter that limbers the night up with a classy, gratifying act.
With a slight delay from the times provided, Adriana gloriously appears in her sea-inspired dress made of nets and azure variations. The opening is entrusted to the high-spirited Porto alegre (Nos Braços de Calipso), a breezy track inspired by the myth of Ulysses, struck by the sirens chant. She is jaunty, delighted by the engaging vibe and clapping hands. Several blocks scream and it’s moving to see such a varicoloured fan base, crossing years and genders and orientations.
Adriana herself, after all, is a rainbow spirit, who was married for many years, to the Brazilian Actor Suzana de Moraes, who died in 2015.
And it’s immediately time for a powerful throwback: the gaúcha legend fearlessly jumps back in time with two evergreen cults from her previous records: Mais Feliz and Inverno, a surprising choice taken from the masterpiece A fábrica do poema. The crowd is ecstatic, three generations tag along with such a tiny, swanky London spot in praise of an artist of that level.
Few words are intoned by Adriana, and they are rigorously in English (It’s a real pleasure to be here tonight, You might think that I always say so- and I really do!) , and the next tracks are from the latest record: the fado-oriented Era pra ser (which would inevitably get in me into tears) and Dessa Vez, a metalinguistic scribble that sounds reverent out of her mouth, God-fearing and blissing.
Before venturing out in an intrepid Chico Buarque’s cover (Futuros Amantes), It’s time for another unfailing classic, readdressed with a special, march-inducing ending. Adriana never hesitates, and not just because she masters the stage with a surreal presence and unreal physique du rôle , but mostly because she does believe in every syllable she clearly articulates: poetry is a game of mirrors, reflecting each other’s depth whilst people are left careering off-course, enchant drunk.
Darkness in constantly chastened by the lightness of movement, her voice undulates through the acoustics, encircling the devoted crowd. More gets selected from the new work and Príncipe das mares and Tua pave the way to Maritmo, a golden gift who was handed over by João Gilberto and Helio Eichbauer. A retribution delivered back with victorious personality: this minstrel from Rio Grande do Sul, when officialy presenting her crew of impeccable musicians, blesses the audience by literally spraying water over them, accompanying it with powerful claims for respect and freedom (Let’s save the Amazon, she firmly demands).
This moderninst siren is left alone for couple of moments: she one-ups the stage and the spotlight is all for Mentiras, one of her best songs ever composed, extracted from the 1992 album Senhas. The atmosphere is unearthly beautiful but it’s just the lull before the storm. Margem’s best hits seal off an engaging triptych made of the first self-titled single, then Là Là Là and the funk-oriented Meu Bonde.
Before coming back for the encore, Mrs Calcanhotto recalibrates the balance with two more abiding tunes: Vambora and Esquadros, before returning one more time for the unmissable Fico Assim Sem Você and Maresia.
She has brought the house down, one more time, with the flying colours of her chameleonic, adorably risqué persona, with the candour of a woman who is undoubtedly the Patron Saint of all poets.