Mariza, Royal Festival Hall, London
Wednesday 27 January 2010
Let's pretend, once again, that we are in Lisboa, in a small taverna," Mariza suggests, looking out at a Royal Festival Hall kept intentionally sepulchral tonight. She is the biggest global star that fado, the darkest and most soulful European music, has had, singing at Olympic Games ceremonies and single-handedly reviving its fortunes. But Mariza is also a purist; open to the international rhythms absorbed on her last album, Terra, but rooted in the traditional fado played at her father's taverna where she sang from the age of five.
She presents herself as exotic yet unmistakably Portuguese, her body's slim top half growing out of a wide black ruffled skirt; a hybrid of pop star and princess. Mariza's music, too, has a professional, modern veneer. Moments of "Morada Aberta" sound like a blowsy Hollywood ballad, and "Barco Negro" climaxes in a small epic of strobing white light and movement. But at the heart of it all is a voice schooled in fado's depths. "Barco Negro"'s real drama comes from Mariza, standing straight-backed in the shadows as if in a witness box, hand warding off despair, and humming with controlled emotion. The hard black-and-white lighting that the strobing creates suggests the art deco set of an old Hollywood musical, where Mariza would fit. At moments tonight, she reminds me of both Liza Minnelli and, in her grand gestures, Malian divas such as Oumou Sangare. Fado began in Portugal's African colonies, after all.
Mariza's band sometimes veer towards jazz. But no one cuts loose on this stage, where the wild abandon of American soul has no place. Instead, Mariza offers a sort of vocal perfection. On "Fado Primavera" she enacts clutched despair and restrained passion, matching her buttoned-up funereal clothes. Even when she flings herself into high, roaring notes, they stay crisply targeted. Her face mimics crying in fado's highest-strung, lachrymose moments, but a real tear is never close.
The effort such careful art takes is shown when Mariza mentions she was shaking as she started this first European show of 2010. The reason she cares so much is shown when she switches off the mics, after more than two hours, and trusts her voice to carry here as it did in the tavernas where she, and fado, began. On her second attempt, that voice reaches into the rafters, at last raw, powerful and right.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
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
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women