Hollywood ArtsPark, Hollywood
You can't knock the intentions of the good people of the Rhythm Foundation. Their free series at Hollywood ArtsPark provides the community with an evening of music and culture from distant lands. Last time out, they had 7,500 people present to celebrate the music of Trinidad; in October, they will be bringing the top contemporary artists of Italy. Saturday night was Brazil's turn.
Close to 5,000 were blessed by a three-hour window where the sky did not drench the Earth with rain. Like all free concerts, there was a disconnect between the attendees. Half the people were there to hear the music; for the other half of the crowd, the evening was an excuse to be among other people in a party atmosphere. To them, the featured entertainment might as well have been a monster truck rally.
But instead of Bigfoot crushing smaller cars, the night's festivities began with the Brazilian Voices. This choir of a dozen women introduced themselves with the Brazilian National Anthem and followed it with other classics from Brazil. Next was Rose Max, a local samba singer. Then the crowd held their breath (or at least half the crowd did) for the headliner, Seu Jorge.
Jorge is best-known in America for his acting in the movies City of God and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but he is foremost a singer and musician. Not only known for his original compositions, he also translated popular English-language songs into his native Portuguese (most notably David Bowie songs) and was recently featured in the Talib Kweli song "Favela Love." Direct from completing a four-night sold-out run at Blue Note in New York, where he serenaded his former costar Bill Murray, among others, Jorge this evening played for a much larger (if less funny) crowd.
As soon as Jorge took the stage, he had his fans hanging on every word spoken in his baritone voice (or at least the half of the crowd that wasn't more focused on finishing their six-packs). His two backing musicians took turns with instruments as varied as the ukulele, the bongo drums, and the upright bass. But Jorge seemed dissatisfied. He kept walking off the stage as feedback from the microphone reared its ugly head. Finally, five songs into his set, Jorge said some words in Portuguese and stomped off. His backing band looked confused for a moment before following him. The crowd booed.
The old saying is, beggars can't be choosers, but of course we are a society that is never content. Give us an inch and we'll bite off the whole popsicle. Without the benefits of a universal translator, it appeared to non-Brazilian ears that Seu Jorge pulled a diva move. Fortunately, next to me was a man who did speak Portuguese, and he was able to translate what Jorge said. He apparently couldn't hear himself, so he was stepping off to see if the sound could be fixed.
Around that time, everyone else who was there for the music must have had the situation explained as well, because the boos transformed into a soccer chant pleading for more music. After ten minutes, Seu Jorge and his band reappeared with crystal-clear sound to a rip-roaring rendition of "Mas Que Nada." The song, which you know, at the very least, from the Austin Powers movies and Nike commercials, immediately returned Seu Jorge to the crowd's good graces (or at least the portion that recognized he had left the stage). And for another hour, he entertained, much to the crowd's delight or indifference depending upon one's reason for attending.