Bebel serves flat bossa

BEBEL GILBERTO, at the Brigantine Room, July 10. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNNWith 400 people packed into.


BEBEL GILBERTO, at the Brigantine Room, July 10. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN


With 400 people packed into the Brigantine Room on Monday and 50 more lining the free side of the fence outside, the anticipation surrounding Bebel Gilberto’s Toronto debut was tremendous. The show, sadly, was not.

While the Brazilian-born, New York-based Gilberto has created one of the records of the year with Tanto Tempo, deftly fusing old-school bossa-nova elegance with 21st-century beats, it’s a sound that at least for now is best enjoyed at home.

Gilberto is a great voice in need of a musical director. It took her pleasant but ultimately dreary live set to drive home exactly what she lost when musical partner and producer Suba died following Tanto Tempo’s completion.

It was swell to hear that the singer’s voice is as smooth and substantial live as it is on disc, but with most of the music on DAT, the casual vibe was more airport lounge than cool bossa. Her leather-pants-wearing four-piece backing band played their parts competently but without passion, adding nothing fresh or new.

Recreating the album’s cool electro-fusion sound would be impossible without turntables and a sampler, but why not at least splash out for a live bassist and percussionist, and a pianist who doesn’t have to read the parts off the music stand?

The dreamy opener Samba Da Benção could have been lifted clean off the album, with Gilberto cooing over pre-recorded bass, percussion and trombone, while So Nice — which was actually played twice — was stripped of its cheery summer samba feel by Helio Alves’s tepid synth tinkling.

You might expect a second-rate artist to try to get by with that, but judging by the strength of her stunning record, Gilberto deserves far better.

BEBEL GILBERTO, at the Brigantine Room, July 10. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 400. Rating: NNN

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