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Rodrigo Amarante at Latin Alternative Music Conference

Ernest Barteldes By

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Rodrigo Amarante
Latin Alternative Music Conference at Central Park Summerstage
New York, NY
July 7, 2016

On his Summerstage debut, Brazilian singer-songwriter Rodrigo Amarante, backed by his own acoustic guitar and a band, kicked off his performance with an original low-tempo ballad sung in his native Portuguese. He followed that with a French-language tune. He acknowledged the audience in English, Spanish and Portuguese and continued with an up-tempo English-language song.

Amarante followed Grenda, a Mexican electronica duo that played a set of 80s dance-influenced tunes that brought to mind Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk. Though he has several hits in Brazil under his belt with Orquestra Imperial, Los Hermanos and via collaborations with the likes of Marisa Monte, he chose not to include any of them in his set, opting for solo material and a handful of obscure covers.

He did explain (in English) some of the songs meanings—for example, one was about having a goal in life but never being able to reach it. Most of the tunes he played were ballads, save a samba he wrote for Orquestra Imperial (a band he founded alongside Moreno Veloso and Kassin of the +2 project) that got the audience moving. He played various genres in a very personal manner, and did a couple of Joao Gilberto-inspired bossas on his own as his band departed the stage halfway through the set.

When the band returned, he played a song originally recorded by Os Novos Baianos—but again not one of their best-known tunes but a deep cut. The audience responded politely, but the absence of hits was clearly getting a mixed reaction as many in the crowd seemed to get distracted from the music by breaking into conversation or heading to the concession stand.

Amarante's set seemed more appropriate for a smaller venue with dedicated fans, not a place where the majority in the audience was unfamiliar with his music (most were there for Mexican star Leon Carregui). It was clearly a missed opportunity to engage with the audience.

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