Tourcoing Jazz Festival: on a family tour, Gilberto Gil gives an exhilarating concert in Roubaix


After multiple cancellations of meetings with the French public due to Covid-19, Gilberto Gil embarked on a European tour including several sold-out French stops, from Dijon on October 1, to Paris (the Philharmonie ) on the 25th, via the Nancy Jazz Pulsations and the Tourcoing Jazz Festival. For this series of dates, the 79-year-old singer is traveling in good company. Beside him on stage are his sons Bem and João Gil, his granddaughter Flor Gil, 13, and drummer Marcelo Costa (who replaces José Gil, another son of the artist, who usually accompanies him). To ensure his first games, Gilberto Gil invited the formidable Adriana Calcanhotto.

Friday October 15, Coliseum of Roubaix. 21:21. The Gil family, mostly dressed in white, took to the stage. Patriarch Gilberto Gil, bearded beard, seated in the front with his guitar, and lined up behind him, his sons Bem and João Gil with bass and guitars, drummer Marcelo Costa in the shelter of plexiglass windows and little Flor, 13 years old, who we could see singing with his grandfather in the family home during confinement via social networks. Tonight, she took her place behind keyboards covered with a large black tablecloth.

For its European tour, the Gil clan has designed an eclectic program of songs from the Nordeste, samba, (a little bit) bossa, reggae – music that Gilberto Gil is particularly fond of – but also titles in English, Italian and in French. We find with joy classics from his repertoire. He starts a superb Viramundo on a slow tempo, alone on the guitar, before being joined by the whole group. Later he offers the public a wonderful and delicate Flora, song dedicated to his wife, just in guitar-voice, a voice slightly muffled by age, but full of sweetness or an intact energy depending on the song. It also offers a very rhythmic cover of a classic by Ary Barroso, É Luxo Só, and a sumptuous Upa Neguinho, wonder of Edu Lobo, one of those giants of Brazilian music whose name remains unfairly unknown in France.

Gilberto Gil enjoys communicating with the public, in French, with humor and warmth. After her granddaughter Flor sang the famous Italian song Volare, the proud grandfather describes the Italian origins of the girl, born elsewhere in the United States, he explains, adding that he tries to make his contribution to his education, musical, as we imagine . “I am responsible for giving him some directions”, he smiles mischievously. “I asked Flor to sing a song that I really like. It’s by Burt Bacharach.” Standing near his grandfather, Flor Gil resumes I Say a Little Prayer, splendor immortalized in the past by Aretha Franklin, in a light, very pop arrangement, adapted to her youthful voice. We observe with a certain tenderness these family moments which are so many moments of transmission within an extraordinary clan.

It is after the sweetness of Flora that the concert will switch to another dimension, very lively and festive. Beating the recall of the troops, both on stage and in the hall, Gilberto Gil gets up not to sit down again, while electric guitars replace acoustic ones. He launches one of the most catchy hymns in his repertoire, the aptly named Palco (“Scene”), a groove delight reminiscent of the heyday of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Gil goes on with Do not touch My friend, the song he wrote in French – and which is based on part of the harmonic grid of Toda Menina Bahiana – after being invited to perform at a concert organized by the SOS Racisme movement in the second half of the 1980s. From one serious theme to another, the singer revives the memory of the military dictatorship in Brazil with Back in Bahia, a song written on his return from his exile in London, in an electrifying version during which his son João skips and flies on a guitar solo … Just to remind that nothing can alter the joy and combativeness of Gil’s.

Standing ovation for Gilberto Gil at the Colisée de Roubaix, October 15, 2021, as part of the Tourcoing Jazz Festival (Jerek Bink)

During a new duet with Flor, concluded with a kiss from the happy grandfather, Gilberto Gil ignites the audience who rises and rises when they dance on the irresistible Aquele Abraço. Calling on the Brazilians in the room, whether they are from Rio, Bahia or elsewhere, he launches: “Chegareimos” (“we will arrive”), a probable encouragement to the ordeal his country is going through between the Covid and an increasingly criticized far-right presidency. Since the start of the evening, a few “Fora Bolsonaro”, rallying cries of opponents of the Brazilian president have fired here and there.

After an ultimate reggae by Bob Marley (Stir It Up), a Tempo Rei on an intro in a nod to the Rolling Stones, the show combines rock concert and Bahian carnival … A 4-year-old boy – another grandson of Gil – appears on stage with a percussion instrument … C ‘ is indeed a joyous family celebration that we have been invited. After the apotheosis of the timeless Toda Menina Bahiana (which Gil had written for one of his daughters), the Olympic fishing singer greets the euphoric room one last time and leaves the stage before the other members of the group. In the room, then in the hall, smiles illuminate hundreds of faces, including that of footballer Rai, former PSG captain, who came to applaud his compatriots. The enchanter of Bahia has succeeded in his magic trick.

In the first part, in a much more intimate register, the singer Adriana Calcanhotto also offered a very good performance. She presented herself on stage alone, wearing a large light green cape, yellow inside, two colors of the Brazilian flag, which she removed once installed, revealing a clear outfit. Accompanied by a guitar, she begins her singing tour with Esquadros, a song she wrote and composed. Her deep voice, almost trembling at first, carries with conviction pieces of great sensitivity and beautiful melodies.

After a song dedicated to his eminent elder and host of the evening, Elogil, it connects prestigious covers, from various horizons. As soon as he recognizes Back to Black, the charmed audience beats time, while Adriana Calcanhotto, whose vibrato seems to repress disillusioned tears, pays a poignant tribute to Amy Winehouse. Follow a delicate bossa version of Dead leaves and the famous Clandestino by Manu Chao, on a theme that is still relevant today.

The artist, who does not speak French and does not speak English, presents the following title in Portuguese. Alas, the vast majority of the public does not capture anything of the tragic news item, which occurred in 2020 in Recife, which describes 2 from Junho : the fall from the 35th floor of little Miguel Otávio, 5, son of a maid forced to work to survive in times of pandemic, and who had to take her child to his workplace when schools and daycares were closed . His boss, wife of a mayor, let the idle child take an elevator alone and escape all surveillance, which led to the accident. Then Adriana Calcanhotto begins a final song, thanks the audience and slips away almost on the sly, leaving a taste of unfinished business to her very fine performance. Backstage, with a sorry smile, she will explain that she was cold on stage. We hope to see this bewitching artist very soon.



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