Bebel Gilberto at The Hiro Ballroom, NYC

Ernest Barteldes By

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Bebel Gilberto
Hiro Ballroom
New York, New York
November 25, 2009

Playing in celebration of her latest release before a large crowd of dedicated fans, Bebel Gilberto took the stage at Downtown Manhattan's Hiro Ballroom backed by a tight four-piece band, kicking off the set with "Aganju," a Carlinhos Brown-penned tune from her 2004 self-titled album (Six Degrees). The song was played in a much slower tempo than the original studio recording—consequently, not a very good choice to start a concert with. She continued with the title track of her new album All In One, followed by Joao Gilberto's "Bim Bom." The latter was the first to really connect with the audience, which responded by singing along to the song's Portuguese lyrics.

It took a few more tunes for her to get the energy going, but by the time she got to the up-tempo "Sem Contencao," things began to gel and she completely relaxed, even dancing a bit on stage to encourage the audience to follow along with her as she started showcasing the more familiar songs from her back catalog. During "Simplesmente," she began making eye contact with those closer to the stage.

Highlights from the concert included bossa nova classics like "Samba da Bencao" and "So Nice (Summer Samba)," which was given a contemporary arrangement. She also included the Carmen Miranda cover "Chica Chica Boom Chic," the lead single from All In One, which has received lots of airplay in Brazil since being included in the soundtrack of one of the country's popular prime-time soap operas.

Quite possibly the best moment from her set was during the encore, when she sang the soft ballad "Eu Preciso Dizer Que Te Amo," an early composition she penned with the late Cazuza (a demo appeared on the 1996 compilation Red Hot + Rio). It was a heartfelt rendition that closed the show on a high note—the audience' response prompting her to return to the stage for a second encore.

It was evident that Gilberto is yet to reach full chemistry with her new band (the sole veteran from past tours was guitarist/bassist Masa Shimitzu). Also, she did not seem completely comfortable with performing her new material in a live format. In spite of a few small flaws—including a considerable delay for the concert to begin—it was an overall enjoyable performance, especially the more "classic" moments from her repertoire.


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