Anyone attending the Camden Roundhouse this evening expecting an unchallenging evening’s entertainment from ‘they guy who sings Portuguese David Bowie songs’ has probably had their perceptions somewhat reversed by Seu Jorge and his twelve-strong latin-funk ensemble. Though those Bowie songs do make an appearance, Jorge has the sense to sandwich them (only two) mid-set, and to make them stripped affairs, quiet reminders of his most recognisable work.
His remaining work, though, may be unrecognised by some assembled. In truth, there is a massively diverse crowd in attendance, and snatches of many different languages can be overheard all evening. Jorge’s studio albums form a dazzlingly energetic, cool and occasionally considered oeuvre, with new addition America Brasil contributing an extremely clever duality in sound and gesture to it. Is he mocking North America, or just using a few of her tricks to contemporize his sound? The influence of North American pop and funk on 1970s Brazil is well-documented, and previous records have seen Jorge fuse this with his defiant favela aesthetic, but new songs tonight have the actual musical devices favoured by the likes of Stevie Wonder.
Piercing harmonica, rock rhythms and much simpler chord structures pervade much of this, with America Du Norte standing out as probably the most effective new statement. Favourites from Jorge’s Cru and Carolina albums are given either fiery life with excess horns (and, incidentally, valve trombone… rare!) or sensitive deployment by Seu Jorge alone. These moments of quiet are most effective, forcing through simple logic and respect an entire crowd to hush up for once. Indeed, preconceptions are challenged wholly this evening – that staple of the hellish over-indulgence, the percussion solo section, is tackled with such fun and genuine enjoyment from its three battling tambourines that it renders the previously hushed crowd utterly jubilant in time for Jorge’s return.
His hired hands appear to be a great deal more attuned than the average band of session musicians, intermittently jiving and jumping with enviable glee – oh, to be in Jorge’s band! The delirious level of fusion, mocking or indebted to American culture as it may be (you decide), has not become musically confusing, more it has taken the very best rhythmic and melodic traits and made them unmissable and loveable – far from the preserve of the middle-aged roots fan, Seu Jorge has made cultural conflict into brilliant entertainment.
Visit Seu Jorge here!