Filed under: live, review | Tags: live at the royal festival hall, mariza, michelle mendonca
Royal Festival Hall, London ••••
January 25, 2010
Having made a punctual arrival at the grand Royal Festival Hall, the full crowd were buzzing expectantly when Mariza made her very prompt stage entrance at 7.30 pm, giving way to an explosion of applause. Roses were thrown onto the stage at regular intervals, with one particularly energetic floral missile almost “knocking her out”, as the charismatic fadista declared with good humour. The Portuguese genre is full of aching loss and yearning, and as such, the lithe, striking artist has developed an almost trademark stage costume to reflect this. Her outfit this time was no exception, cinched in at the waist with a beaded, black, corset-like dress that floated down to widower skirts, layers of ragged shreds cut from rich, fine textiles – a fittingly dramatic attire that captured both the elegance of bygone ages and the maudlin, pauper majesty of the genre’s roots, which took from the sea and the poverty of the island folk.
Particular highlights were a beautiful rendition of ‘Ja Me Deixou’ followed by raucous favourite ‘Maria Lisboa’, which earned some eager crowd participation. Mariza judged the crowd’s attempt to sing the high end-note as “not bad”, a hilarious compliment since it was so untrue. She sat down to sing earlier number, ‘Chuva’, a goosebump-raising tale of lovelorn souls, and though some expected a guest appearance from Tito Paris on ‘Beijo De Saudade’, Mariza delivered it alone with panache. Along the way she related the story of her passage into Fado, starting with her humble beginnings in Mozambique and relocation to Mouraria in Lisbon and going on to describe the tavern her parents ran and the Fado nights they would put on. She’d defy her bedtime curfew and sneak onto the stairs to see these strange, majestic singers fluting their soul-filled ballads in the darkened saloon, and by the tender age of five, she was belting out her own renditions to “sold out” audiences of twenty.
Mariza often uses her whole body to conjure the dramatic emotion of her material, most notably on ‘Barco Negro’, and the crowd responded in kind, with many shouting “I love you!” fervently between songs. The use of trumpets on certain numbers was a welcome addition, and the drummer, whose kit included bongos, tin cans, windpipes and other, unidentifiable instruments, delivered an amazing solo. Encore number ‘Rosa Branca’ (White Rose) had the crowd up on their feet, stomping and clapping away merrily, following an a cappella, which no Mariza show is complete without. With microphones and amps turned off, the crop-haired icon, flanked by two guitarists, took to centre stage and placed one leg up on a chair – an old-school tradition that evoked raucous cheers and nostalgic cries from the audience – and proceeded to fill the bare acoustics of the Hall with an immense music that needed no modern accoutrements.
The show could perhaps have done without some of the closing numbers of the main set; sung in both Spanish and English, these fell a little flat compared with her predominantly Portuguese offerings. But, all in all, the performance was a marvellous one, reviving the sounds of the past with the passion of the present. And to top it all off, she divulged exciting news about her upcoming album, confessing that although the current live shows featured a dance-friendly, live orchestra of drums and trumpets, the new material will be a stripped-back return to basics. Footage from tonight’s show will feature on her upcoming DVD, Terra Em Concerto, out February 15 through EMI. Mariza returns to the UK in February for a short run of dates in Manchester, Brighton, Coventry and Gateshead.
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