Gilberto in Vancouver: a set for the ages

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Monday April 13, 2015

By Alan Ranta

Gilberto Gil: Chan Centre, Vancouver BC, April 12

Following a warm introduction, Brazilian musical master Gilberto Gil walked out casually, sat centre stage in the spotlight, and calmly tuned his acoustic guitar by ear. He was joined by Domenico Lancellotti on drums and electronics, Erivaldo Oliveira on accordion and percussion, and Bem Gil, his son, who would play everything from glockenspiel and guitar to flute and a dinner plate. The 72-year-old Gilberto has nothing left to prove, having won many awards for his revolutionary music and politics as one of the founders of tropicália and the former Brazilian Minister of Culture, but he proved himself again anyway. He played for an hour and 40 minutes, with an intermission, and played well. Starting into “Aos Pés da Cruz,” softly tapping the tempo with his foot, Gilberto’s voice and guitar instantly lit up the sold-out Chan Shun Concert Hall at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Gilberto didn’t say anything to the crowd until after his third song, “Tim Tim por Tim Tim,” at which point he laid out the history behind his recent record, Gilbertos Samba; namely, how he came to create a samba record based largely in celebration of the music of bossa nova innovator João Gilberto. When he spoke, there was a bit of gravel, but when he sang, you’d never guess that this man had recorded some 50 albums over a remarkable half-century career. Playing the aforementioned album in its entirety, with other classics mixed in along the way, he absorbed the mellow, substantial way João wrote, injecting with his own sensibilities, which draw on everything from highlife and reggae to disco and punk, though this set would keep things fairly minimal. He even wrote some lyrics for João’s intricate instrumental “Um Abraço no Bonfa,” a song Gilberto had given up trying to learn in his youth. He joked that maybe he had improved since then.

Gilberto’s band rarely challenged him for the spotlight, but they were deeply supportive: Oliveira elicited cheers for his accordion solos on “Tim Tim por Tim Tim” and “Meio de Campo,” a warm smile on his face as he bounced on his stool and coaxed the jovial melody for “Rio Eu Te Amo”; Lancellotti tickled his kit with brushes and added digital effects, sandpaper, double kick drums and anything else required as he exchanged gleeful glances with his bandmates across the stage; Bem laid down the funkiest of electric guitar on “Eu Vim da Bahia” and baritone ukulele that sounded like upright bass on “Meio de Campo”; all three of them tapped out quirky digital percussion on the dramatic “Maquina de Ritmo.” Generally, the band simmered more than they cooked — a feeling mirrored in the rising and falling synth line on their rendition of “Desafinado” — but that’s the samba way. It’s all about slow burning summer jams, their breezy feel obscuring their complex design.

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