Seu Jorge, Royal Festival Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

It's something of a surprise to hear the casually suave Brazilian Seu Jorge confessing, during his show as part of the Royal Festival Hall's La Linea Latin music festival, that he "don't speak English so good".

It's something of a surprise to hear the casually suave Brazilian Seu Jorge confessing, during his show as part of the Royal Festival Hall's La Linea Latin music festival, that he "don't speak English so good". No matter: the surfer-like way Jorge's voice rides the samba rhythms is a kind of sensual Esperanto, and no one needs a translator to understand exactly where he's coming from with the insistent refrain "a favela e um problema social" (from the song "Eu Sou Favela") during the evening's wildly received encore.

Prominent film roles in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and as Knockout Ned in Fernando Meirelles's City of God have served notice of Jorge's thespian credentials. On stage, moving well and shape-shifting, Jorge utilises a dizzying array of voices - so much so that, at times, it's not clear whether he's speaking in tongues.

It's a first to see an artist call-and-respond with himself, as Jorge does during some supreme Latino-funk, bringing to mind the oral dexterity of the American MC Shinehead.

Decked out in thrift-store T-shirt and hair much nappier than in Knockout Ned days, Jorge is warm in his appraisal of David Bowie, whose songs he covered in Portuguese for the Life Aquatic soundtrack. Before launching into a triptych of Bowie fave raves, Jorge acknowledges his debt to "the best composer, singer and actor", although it's possible that the last point lost a little in translation.

Though the Anderson/ Bowie connection has netted Seu Jorge a clutch of notices beyond specialist interest, there are few other sops to Euro-centricity here. Jorge's four-strong group of players are equally at home with flaming samba and seductive bossa. When the percussionists combine for a three-handed demonstration of the art of the pandeiro, all the Anglos present are left rueing the absence of Latin in the national curriculum.

The plight of the Brazilian underclass is never far away in the work of Seu Jorge, yet his journey has been one of celebration, not commiseration. Sage and seer, Seu Jorge departed, leaving the audience breathless and in some need of a foot-rub.

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