Described as "the coolest man in the world" by Wes Anderson (the nerdiest film director on the planet?), who cast him as the Bowie-singing chorus figure in The Life Aquatic, the Brazilian singer, songwriter and actor Seu Jorge has a good deal to live up to.
Twelve years ago, he was a homeless street-busker in Rio. Now, following two acclaimed albums, the role of Knockout Ned in City of God that got him noticed by Anderson and a South Bank Show special on his life and art, Jorge Mario da Silva is an international celebrity. At 8.45 on Tuesday night, he also had 1,500 people awaiting his appearance on stage with an expectation that approached hysteria. But how would Seu Jorge (literally, "Mr Jorge") respond? Could a set of Afro-Brazilian social-context sambas sung in a language 90 per cent of those present wouldn't understand, do the trick? And, crucially, would we get hear any David Bowie?
As soon as he took the stage with a clenched-fist salute and a five-piece band (four of them drummers), any doubts were over: Seu Jorge is a total star. There are echoes of Gil Scott-Heron and Bob Marley in his short dreads and rake-thin frame, accentuated by the songs' blend of social critique and sensitive lyricism, for Jorge shares that bardic ability to sing about one's people as easily as one sings about a lover. Although perhaps only the hits "Tive Razão" and "Carolina" were sufficiently well known to work as crowd-pleasers, Jorge is so skilled a frontman, guitarist, singer and rapid-fire rapper, that even unknown material encouraged familiarity.
He played for almost two hours, returning solo for an encore in which he explained, in halting but functional English, that Wes Anderson had given him the freedom to do what he wished with the Bowie songs, and that they were very free translations of the originals. Then he sang "Rebel Rebel" followed by "Life on Mars" and we went wild. After a Brazilian ballad or two, the band came back and they played some more.
At the end, after the embraces and the prize-fighter's gestures of victory, Seu Jorge and his band members danced off stage together, the leader kicking his heels in the air in exultation.Reuse content