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Gilberto Gil at the Nokia Theatre

Ernest Barteldes By

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Gilberto Gil
Nokia Theatre
New York, NY
March 11, 2010

Playing to a nearly sold-out crowd at the midtown Manhattan concert venue, Gilberto Gil sauntered onto the stage alone, picked up his guitar and began playing "A Linha e o Linho," a gentle bossa that set the tone for this pared-down concert. He then introduced guitarist Bem Gil (his son) and cellist Jaques Morelembaum, who have accompanied him on the current tour, which was recorded on the recently released live CD/DVD Banda Dois (Universal Music). The three musicians then carried on with a quiet arrangement for "Esoterico," a classic from Gil's songbook that was originally cut as a reggae.

Instead of playing a selection his best-known songs, Gil chose more obscure numbers intertwined with a few hits. "Super Homem: A Cancao," for instance, was played with Gil and Bem Gil trading complicated chords as Morelembaum filled in with creative arpeggios and solos. A highlight came when the trio took on Caetano Veloso's "Panis Et Circenses," a tune written for the 1968 Tropicalia concept album. While the original (recorded by Os Mutantes) was a cacophony of electric sounds, Gil played is as a blend of bossa nova and psychedelic sounds.

Another memorable moment came with the 1940s standard "Chiclete com Banana," a tune that criticizes the Americanization of Brazilian music via Carmen Miranda and Hollywood. The tune's jazz structure gave the three musicians a lot of space for improvisation, and the elder Gil also did a lot of his trademark falsetto vocals around the melody.

Not many of Gil's fans realize he began his career as a guitarist (he played on many of Caetano Veloso's early albums), so this was an opportunity for him to showcase his unique fingerpicking style, which he developed under the influence of Joao Gilberto. That was specially noticeable in tunes such as "Lamento Sertanejo" and "Expresso 222," two numbers with a northeastern Brazilian feel. The addition of Morelembaum (who does not perform on the CD) was a masterful stroke, as the cellist gave the tunes greater depth and sonority.

One hopes to listen to more collaborations between Gil and the cellist, who has had an illustrious career in Brazil in his own right.

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