Catchy, invigorating rhythms have never had a better reception than at Grammy award-winning Brazilian great Sergio Mendes and popular Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto’s sold out concert to celebrate 60 years of Bossa Nova on Friday, October 18 at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston, an enthusiastic crowd rejoiced in the exhilarating, eclectic rhythms that surely left them humming a tune or two long after the show was over.
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Dressed in a floral, black trimmed dress that delivered a certain sparkle with silver, sky high heels, Bebel Gilberto, who descends from a long line of Brazilian and jazz greats including her late father, Joao Gilberto, who wrote the Grammy award-winning tune, The Girl from Ipanena, kicked off the celebration. Accompanied by renowned guitarist Guilherme Monteiro and drummer Leo Costa, Bebel swept onto the stage with catchy, low key rhythms. Her smooth, slinky vocals opened with Wave written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Frank Sinatra recorded this popular song in English in 1969.
Most of Bebel’s songs were in Portuguese, but as she engaged the crowd through song and personal reflections, she said she is Brazilian-American. She dedicated a few songs to family members, stating family is everything. Her set was a mix of jazz and serene rhythms as she whistled and scatted onstage.
Even if Portuguese is not a familiar language, the beats and rhythms linger in Bebel’s crisp, clear, and captivating vocals. She invited the crowd to sing and clap along as she covered some of her father’s hit songs such as the humorous O Pato (The Duck), the upbeat rhythms of Saudade vem Correndo, and Udiu, a song that Bebel said mirrors how her father played guitar.
Warm and charismatic, Bebel delivered a lighthearted, invigorating version of her own hit, So Nice (Summer Samba) and performed a lighter, more upbeat version of Just One of those Things, dedicating the classic Cole Porter hit to her parents. After playfully applying lipstick onstage, she ended her set with Samba Da Bencao, dedicating the mystical, romantic rhythms to Boston.
The celebration heated up as Grammy award-winning Sergio Mendes appeared onstage, greeted with a rousing applause. Along with his vocalist wife Gracinha Leporace and Katie Hampton, Sergio promised the crowd a musical journey through 60 years of Bossa Nova music and he certainly delivered.
Referring to the renowned musicians onstage as “the best band he ever had” while simultaneously playing piano and conducting the band, Sergio was accompanied by drummer Leo Costa, guitarist Kleber Jorge Pimenta, bassist Andre De Santanna, keyboardist Scott Mayo, and percussionist Gibi.
Dressed in his signature white Cuban Hat and suit, Sergio delved into the history of Bossa Nova, opening with a rousing rendition of Magalenha as the crowd clapped wildly. He followed it with the lighthearted and colorful tune, Waters of March, composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim as Katie Hampton and Gracinha Leporace swayed and effervescently sang, “It’s the end of the strain/It’s the joy in your heart.”
Sergio kept the evening lively, sharing songs that ranged from romantic and stirring to breezy and joyous with drum-infused rhythms. In a flowing sea green dress and charcoal leggings, Gracinha passionately sang O Que Sera by Chico Buarque. Hip hop veteran and vocalist Harrell Harris (H2O) sang a lovely duet with Katie Hampton for Sergio’s 80s hit, Never Gonna Let You Go as guitarist Kleber Jorge Pimenta performed an amazing guitar solo.
One of the most thrilling parts of the evening was a freestyle jam session which included a berimbau and percussionist solo seeped in the rhythms of Rio de Janeiro. Many of the musicians are multi-instrumentalists and it was fascinating to watch the instruments seemingly “speak” to each other.
The concert featured unique spins on popular songs such as Gracinha and Katie’s spirited, piano-infused duet of the Beatles classic, Fool on the Hill. Gracinha also lends her powerful vocals to an eclectic version of Dusty Springfield’s James Bond theme song, The Look of Love.
Sergio Mendes capped off the evening on a high note with two of his most popular songs. H2O returned to the stage as the band performed Mas Que Nada, a 1966 hit song that became popular again when Sergio collaborated on the song with Will.i.am and The Black Eyed Peas. H2O is an incredible talent, adding a boost to an already electric lineup. Saving the best for last, Bebel returned to the stage with the entire ensemble for a sensational version of Sergio’s most popular song, Pais Tropical, enhanced with bright rhythms and Scott Mayo’s thrilling saxophone. After 60 years, Bossa Nova still puts joy in the heart.
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