Maria Bethania, Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Sue Steward
Wednesday 21 July 2010
Thousands of rose petals covered the stage, flowed between two low plinths housing seven Brazilian musicians, and climbed up the rear wall. This was unambiguously a diva's stage set. As Maria Bethania appeared, intoning a chant to Santa Barbara, a deity in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion which guides her life, the packed audience hushed. When she sang to her homeland, Bahia, skipping like a child around the stage, barefoot as always, they let rip.
With a five-decade career, scores of award-winning albums and three generations of fans, Bethania is iconic in Brazilian music. Ignoring Tropicalia, which her brother Caetano Veloso co-founded, she forged her own musical route, but keeps his songs in every performance.
Sleek black trousers and white shirt have replaced a familiar, rich-hippy look, but Bethania's mane of grey hair still swished to the music. Her distinctive, colourful contralto voice, inspired by Candomblé, jazz and music from Bahia and Rio, also swooped to bluesy, androgynous depths. It fitted her band, which included the brilliant but rather under-used acoustic guitarist Jaime Alem, a keyboard player-cum-accordionist, and three over-dominant percussionists who luckily didn't overwhelm her. Most songs came from the recent albums Encanteria and Tua, and she danced to them in shuffly samba steps, or standing stationary, mirrored their philosophical reflections in elegant moves. Most exquisite was "Queixa", which she sang unaccompanied.
During a brief costume-change, the drummers indulged in an adrenalised Azymuth-like samba-blast, which the audience loved. On returning in a white outfit, Bethania launched a delicate duet with Alem's guitar, led a Bahian samba with abandoned dancing unimaginable from contemporaries Joan Baez or Nanci Griffith, and closed with a message of happiness before skipping away through the rose petals. A diva absolutely, but also a little girl leaving the best party.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
American film board gives gay film Love Is Strange R-rating despite no sex or violence
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians