Monday, March 02, 2009
Critic-in-residence, part 2
In following up my last review, I find I have less to say about Mariza's performance at Verizon Hall last night; this is partly because the concert was so universally stunning, and also because it was sung almost entirely in Portuguese. Though the latter fact makes it somewhat difficult for me to differentiate much of last night's program, I nevertheless found her singing - finely-grained, limber, and heartbreakingly expressive throughout - truly rapturous. From her first number, it seemed she had a smoky, sub-mezzo, almost-contralto voice, making the power and clarity at the top of her range all the more surprising. She exhibited a fond, intimate chemistry with her backing band and had a stage presence that occupied a curious spot between languorous lounge singer and supremely poised flamenco dancer.
Near the end of several songs, the accompaniment stopped, and Mariza delivered an almost-whispered soliloquy - a lean-in moment for me and the rest of the audience - before letting loose with a ringing declamation near the top of her range. This capacity for dynamic contrast and flexibility, and the reactions it elicited in the audience, characterized the evening.
Her tremendously able band featured a fantastic Portuguese guitarist (that is to say, a player of the Portuguese guitar, rather than a guitarist from Portugal; her entire band hails from there) who, I was amazed to learn, is not yet of drinking age in the US, as well as very fine contributors on acoustic guitar, bass, drums and a pianist who occasionally chimed in on trumpet. Their blend and unity of attack, especially in up-tempo numbers, was impressive, as were solo turns by the aforementioned youngster Angelo Braz Freire and acoustic guitarist Diogo Clemente. The drummer, identified as Hugo Antonia E Silva Carreira Marques in the program but called "Mister Vicky," took a few overly technical solos that were more appropriate for a Rush or Metallica show, but his timekeeping and shorter fills were solid without being flashy.
The only tune sung in English came during the encore, as Mariza took on Arthur Hamilton's "Cry Me A River." She brought a resolute air to a dolorous number, with playful phrasing and unimpeachable English. After an evening of heart-on-sleeve songs, though, the stripped-down closer was even more honest, with Mariza and two of her guitarists dispensing with amplification and the guitarists singing a few bars each. Obrigado a todos.