Those with high expectations of Ivan Lins were likely disappointed with his opening night performance at Jazz Alley on Friday, May 6. A bad cold severely hampered Lins' singing voice, confining it to rare moments of musical brilliance; and while his illness was unfortunate, his lack of professionalism onstage was much harder to forgive.
At age 60, dressed extra-casual in a sweat suit and sneakers, the popular Brazilian singer/composer/pianist was making his first Jazz Alley appearance in seven yearsan event which created palpable pre-concert buzz among his local fan base. That base was led by local radio DJ Paula Maya, who welcomed Lins and his sextet to the stage by announcing that no Brazilian composer, with the exception of Antonio Carlos Jobim, has had more songs recorded in the U.S.
An offering of hits spanning Lins' 30-plus year career included lush melodies in the Brazilian tradition ("Começar de Novo, "Nocturna ), a peace anthem denouncing the injustices of 1970's military dictatorship ("King of Carnivale ), and the African-inspired "Congada featuring drummer Teo Lima. The initial notes of "Love Dance, Lins' most-recorded work, were met with audible crowd approval, as was his sing-along set-closer "Madalena, the 1970 smash that launched his career in Brazil.
Regrettably, the evening's strongest impression was left by Lins' compromised voice, which at its best is smooth and breathy in the upper register, forceful and focused in the lower. Tonight, despite brief lustrous moments of flight, high pitches could not be sustained and were either cut short or altogether inaudible. Try as he might, Lins was forced to scrap the lyric to "Começar de Novo. His condition would not have been as noticeable, however, had he not continually called attention to it. Repeated facial grimaces and complaints between songs only worsened a sorry situation and its effect on his audience.
But even more difficult to swallow was Lins' obvious lack of respect for the members of his band. Their position onstagelined up mugshot-style with backs to the wallmade eye-contact with their bandleader, who was situated front and center, all but impossible. No personnel introductions were made; too few solos were allotted. While emphasizing one's star status may be the norm in a large arena setting, within the intimate confines of a nightclub like Jazz Alley such behavior comes off as arrogance. Especially, when one is performing with first-rate musicians the likes of Lima, Leonardo Amuedo (guitar/acoustic guitar), Ze Carlos (acoustic guitar/cavaquinho), Marco Brito (keyboards), and Nema Antunes (electric five-string bass). Not surprisingly, Lins' sidemen returned the slight; mid-song conversations and muffled laughter drew attention away from their leader and his music.
Less dictatorship and more democracy has worked wonders for the people of Brazil. Surely, adopting a similar onstage policy would benefit even a big name like Ivan Lins.