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Djavan at Best Buy Theater, October 26, 2010

Ernest Barteldes By

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Djavan
Best Buy Theater
New York, NY
October 26, 2010

On the American leg of his 2010 tour, Brazilian-born Djavan chose two divide his live show into two distinctive parts: the first featured music from his current release, Aria (Luanda, 2010), a CD containing several covers from the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque and other Brazilian composers, while the second was a collection of his own hits, which hit a note with the numerous expatriate fans present at Midtown Manhattan's Best Buy Theater.

Sitting on a stool and playing accompanied by his own acoustic guitar, Djavan explained (in Portuguese) the meaning for recording some of the songs that appeared on Aria. The audience, who seemed unfamiliar with most of the material, applauded politely and hummed along better-known tunes like Jobim's "Brigas Nunca Mais" Caetano Veloso's Oracao ao Tempo and even the sole English-language tune of the evening, Bert Howard's "Fly Me To The Moon, which featured from Torcuato Mariano (acoustic and electric guitars), André Vasconcellos (electric, stand-up and Hofner basses) and Marcos Suzano (percussion).

Things changed as he began to shift into the hits. As the first chords from the soft ballad "Oceano" were played, fans erupted into applause and began to sing along right from the initial verses. Following the jazz direction of the new CD, the hits were all revamped to include more improvisations and extended solos from Mariano and Suzano and wordless vocals from Djavan. The same happened during his reggae arrangement of Gilberto Gil's "Palco," a tune also included on Aria.

Djavan's voice is extremely youthful in spite of his 61 years. That was evident as he ran through vocally demanding sambas of his earlier career such as "Fato Consumado" and "Flor de Lis." He has a lot of energy and charisma on stage—towards the end of the show, he encouraged the mostly seated audience to stand up and dance to more up-tempo numbers like "Samurai" (in a reggae arrangement that at first confused fans) and the dance floor-friendly "Linha do Equador." His backing trio is extremely skilled, and even when Djavan did not play his guitar, they kept the sound full without any empty spaces in between.

By the end of the show, a party atmosphere was completely established as fans danced and sang along to every word. He returned for a short encore with the ballad "Reluz" and the rock-inflected "Lilas," which closed the performance with the promise of 'coming back soon.'

Djavan is an incredibly gifted singer and songwriter who is able to tackle various genres. Though his roots are in samba, he goes through flamenco, rock, soul and even jazz without losing sight of his signature sound. His fans don't seem to mind his eclectic tendencies—as long as he plays the music they long to hear—and he promptly delivers.

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