The festive atmosphere at Gal Costa's concert at the Barbican on Friday may have had something to do with her legacy as one of Brazil's most popular female singers; and it may have been down to a good proportion of the audience speaking Portuguese as their first language. But it certainly had a lot to do with a consummate performance that drew as much from her latest album as from her illustrious past. Costa's career stretches back more than 40 years; and with songwriters such as Tom Ze, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso working with her from the very beginning, she became a major star of the Tropicalia movement in the late Sixties.
The movement was short-lived but long-sighted, and Gal Costa has roamed freely across musical boundaries since then, experimenting and extending her repertoire over 33 albums. The most recent, Hoje, is a heartfelt, luxuriously assured work, with songs from a new generation of songwriters such as the Congolese Lokua Kanza alongside old friends such as Veloso.
Over an expansive set, she performed all but four of its 14 tracks, alongside classic Sixties material such as "Baby Gal", with guest appearances from Tropicalia legends - guitarist Lanny Gordin and drummer Tutty Moreno, both of whom played on her groundbreaking albums of the late Sixties.
Costa opened with the lilting, acoustic "Fruta Gogoia", expertly drawing the audience to her. She is a great physical performer of her songs: the way she moves and emotes adds weight and depth to the delicacy of her vocals. It seems effortlessly stylish, of course, as she delivers intimate, committed performances on new material such as the lush "Mar e Sol", and the after-hours feel of "Hoje".
The five-piece band provided faultless acoustic settings, bedded by some flashes of Hammond organ and washes of synth, and just a touch or two of sampling. The band's focus is on ensemble playing, with the guitarist taking only one solo in the whole set. For the encore, Gordin and Moreno joined Costa for a handful of Tropicalia classics. After demonstrating the strength of her latest work, she could afford to celebrate her past.Reuse content