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Bebel Gilberto and Kassin +2 at the Roundhouse (review)

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2007 9:28 am
by howard male
I've just noticed that the last to reviews I've written, by coincidence, mention God (in this one) and his alleged son (in the Chango Spasiuk one.) I wish to make it clear that God has only been used for his/her ability to raise a smile. And that while I think it is highly likely that a man called Jesus existed, I think it is as unlikely he was the son of God as it likely that there's a God who speaks in a soft Brazilian accent. Read on and this statement will make a lot more sense.

This is the 12-inch mix of a review which appeared in the Independent on Sunday last weekend.

Bebel Gilberto and Kassin + 2 at the Roundhouse

If I died tomorrow, rather than have the burnished baritone boom of a James Earl Jones God welcome me through the pearly gates, I'd opt for the everything's-okay-really-it-is purr of a Bebel Gilberto God. Maybe this gives us a clue as to the secret of this Brazilian singer's huge success (her debut 'Tanto Tempo' was the biggest selling Brazilian album ever in the USA.) It's a comfort thing: she's never in-your-face, just softly in your ear; she doesn't grab her material by the throat, she sidles up to it, throws an arm around its neck, and takes it for a stroll along the beach. But surely being carried on stage and carefully lowered onto a faux zebra skin-covered chaise longue is taking the whole laid-back thing a bit too far.

But before we get to the seduction by stealth methods of Ms Gilberto, a few necessary words about the support band, Kassin + 2. Tonight was a bit of a 'Bossa Nova: The Next Generation' occassion. Bebel, of course, is the daughter of Joao Gilberto, but Kassin + 2's line-up includes Moreno Veloso, son of Caetano.

Playing tracks from their bold new album 'Futurismo' they produced a constantly surprising and playfully original post-rock-meets-tropicalia sound. As soon as you felt you had them figured out, they'd shoot off on another tangent altogether. Kassin himself instantly becomes my latest favourite guitarist with his spiky but fluid interjections of wayward lead. A hard act to follow.

But Bebel, in her red silk dress, cosied down amongst the cushions, and got straight into the title track of her just-released album 'Momento.' But then, having established the vibe, she made the mistake of asking, "can everyone see me?" "Nooo!," is the general consensus. She lifts her leg to reveal it's clad in plaster. "But what can I do?," she pleads.

But at least it's a relief to find out that the lying down to sing is actually a necessity rather than an affectation. Four songs later a barstool is passed from the back of the auditorium over the heads of the audience and Bebel's visible to all, though clearly in some discomfort which she nevertheless hides well.

Ever the professional she does her soothing thing, and delivers a selection of rich, soft centres from her three best-selling albums, accompanied by a modest-sized four-piece band, including a keyboard player who does most of the work to recreating her full, lush sound. The only problem is, with every line seeming like an invitation to intimacy, and her intakes of breath between notes being almost as audible as the notes themselves, it all gets a bit much after a while - or rather, not enough.

On Ms Gilberto's recorded work there are quirky interjections of electronica into the sunshine swing of her fairly traditional take on bossa nova, and these add a bit of edge and modernity. But unfortunately such subtleties get lost in the high-domed space of the Roundhouse. So in the end it's Kassin + 2 's invigorating set which stays in the mind - along with the miracle of the passing of the stool, of course.