Gilberto Gil: Brazilian Music Ambassador

Gilberto Gil
Paramount Theater
Oakland, CA
October 25, 2012

Gilberto Gil:  Brazilian Music Ambassador

Contributing Senior Correspondent: Jana L.

There is little doubt that we will all be hearing a lot about Brazilian music in the coming years.  The next World Cup and summer Olympics will be held in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively.  And there is little doubt that Gilberto Gil will be at the forefront of musical ambassadors playing and explaining popular Brazilian music to the world.  Few Brazilian musicians have had a longer, more distinguished career than Gilberto Gil and few are as beloved.  In fact if there was any lull during his performance at the Paramount on October 25, it was when he was too intent to explain the origins of different types of Brazilian music.  As soon as the audience was dancing in the aisles, he felt compelled to stop the show for several minutes to explain ‘forro’ music.  However, Gil is an effective ambassador for the musical roots of the country he loves deeply.
Thursday night was the year anniversary of the Occupy Oakland movement and a small march of several hundred people was proceeding down Telegraph Ave in Oakland a block from the Paramount.  There were dozens of police in riot gear staging nearby which is an unsettling sight while on our way to a Tropicalia party.  But, it was all forgotten soon enough once inside the majestic Art Deco triumph that is the Paramount Theater.  I could do an entire blog entry on the stunning design of the Paramount Theater and all the naked art deco.
The Lobby of the Paramount Theater

Gilberto Gil’s performance was open, sincere and joyful and not just limited to his funky-cool street dancing.  His energy and joy for performing was clear, he didn’t seem satisfied unless everyone was dancing.  His younger bandmates seemed unable to keep up with GG’s bubbling energy.  He frequently reached out to the audience from the edge of the stage inviting his fans to join in the party.  At times, it seemed like he was trying to embrace the audience in a big hug.  There was also many expat Brazilians in the audience that became part of the show.  They danced in their seats and in the aisles and sang along with sometimes too much enthusiasm. 

His setlist was a blend of old and new but it was difficult to tell if he was singing a popular song from the 1960's or one he recorded a few days ago. Some of the rhythms were frenetic and the songs blended together when performed back to back. Although the emphasis was on his party tunes, his heartfelt voice sounded best during ballads.  One of the most popular songs was "Esperando Na Janela."  Another crowd favorite was "Ultimo Pau de Arara."  One of the highlights of the nights had to be GG’s excellent Bob Marley covers.  He played great reggae/samba blends of “Three Little Birds” and “No Woman No Cry.”   GG is an old-school performer that believes in giving his all in every performance and that’s what he did at the Paramount.  

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