SEU JORGE at Harbourfront Centre, June 30. Tickets: $21.50-$25. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
It's hard to picture brazilian samba hero Seu Jorge in a more perfect setting: a breezy shoreline amphitheatre on a warm summer night, a fervent festival audience dominated by South Americans clad in yellow and green. There's no way Jorge, known as Knockout Ned to film buffs, could lose. But we'll give credit where it's due. The samba soul brother put on a winning show Friday that could have charmed anyone in any context.
Rarely do you see audiences doing pre-show waves in such small venues, but these fans were hyped. Urgent claps and fractured chants erupted once Jorge emerged, and people were immediately on their feet. As his natty chin-length dreads shook like a mop, Jorge danced and shuffled through soulful slices of samba pop from his albums Carolina and last year's Cru.
Although security isn't usually an issue at jazz festivals, the estrogen-heavy front row required a little strong-arming to chill. On two occasions, overzealous female admirers rushed the stage, forcing a lone female security guard to do a take-down - albeit a tactful one. One fan in particular slithered around Jorge like she was trying to put him under a spell.
At around the same time, Jorge's bass player, Ricardo Feijão , wielded his mighty thumb in a cool, funked-out slap-bass solo. He and Jorge then disappeared to give the percussionists time to shine. The trio battled each other with tribal beats tag-team-style on tambourine-like hand drums called pandeiros.
Jorge addressed the audience almost entirely in Portuguese, but he halted the fun long enough to deliver some reminders in broken English about the homeless children living in Rio's favelas - a life Jorge once knew intimately. However, the quieted crowd returned to raucous levels once he began Eu Sou Favela (I Am The Favela). Sadly, as the show neared its end, it was clear that his beautiful Bowie covers from A Life Aquatic would be skipped over completely.
During the second encore, front-rowers finally got some needed touching. The boys jogged around the stage and front barrier like soccer players training on the pitch before kicking into the finale, a Brazilian folk samba that, judging by the mass singalong, most knew the words to. When I questioned a fevered dancer nearby on its title, he scratched his head, struggling with the translation. All of a sudden his eyes brightened and he enthusiastically yelled, "Explosion," gesturing toward his heart.
For Seu Jorge, that feeling was mutual.