20 April 2006

review: Cesaria Evora at Mesa Arts Center

Posted by at 1:50 PM

I have loved the sound of this woman's voice ever since I first heard the opening verses of Sodade (on Miss Perfumado) many moons ago. On the 15th of this past March, I was fortunate enough to see her perform in the valley (my second time - I had seen her some years back in Tucson).

From the moment that she walks slowly limping out on the stage, you empathize with the splendor of her humanity. She looks like one of those earthMother figurines from prehistoric days. Her velvet voice would soothe any savage, whether beast or breast - no matter. I dare you not to fall in love with her.

that said . . .

The setlist consisted of tunes familiar to me. I think she might have standard setlists that she adheres to without much variation. I even wondered at the end of the show if it was the same setlist as the last time I saw her, right down to the encore (Bésame Mucho, although she nailed all the words this time).

Her advancing age shows through in that she is prone to flub a lyric now and then (when she does, she giggles at herself). She has a little table setup on the stage where she goes to sit when the fatigue of performance overtakes her. A glass of wine. An ashtray and some smokes. It's kinda cool to watch her defiantly light up right there on stage in a theater in a city where strict ordinances against smoking in public have been in place for well over a decade (Mesa is a HUGE Mormon town). I can almost see the shock and anxiety on the theater manager's face:

stage manager: Erm . . . Ms Evora, our theater fire codes dictate that we cannot allow smoking of any kind in this theater, we're sorry to inconvenience you.

Ms Evora's translator: (after a brief and calm string of phrases spoken between her and Ms Evora in the Cape Verde Portuguese dialect) . . . . She say "If you want to arrest her, then go ahead."

You go, girl!

Her band is an amazingly tight unit of what I gather are fellow Cape Verdian musicians. Personally, I think the show on the whole would benefit if she would allow her musicians some room in which to stretch their muscles beyond the tight and streamlined confines of the arrangements of the songs (they pretty much just re-create the recorded versions). There were some very brief moments during the set when I caught a glimpse of some of the amazing playing techniques these guys are capable of, which made me hope that they would continue down some interesting harmonic path. But no dice. The accordion player once erupted in a brief but gorgeous dominant 7th cascade of notes, for example, only to disappear immediately into the background, as if checking himself from further emotional outbursts. The guitar player, who looked no older than twenty-five, played exactly one solo and it was exquisitely slinky-sexy. These are fantastic players. I have a feeling that if she gave them some slack, some elbow room, the dynamic energy level of the show would soar. The sax player was great, but wouldn't it be nice to have some interaction with some guitar lines or some accordion?

Despite this limitation, her voice is so infectious that you don't mind too much.




13 April 2006

The Call

Posted by at 1:58 PM
Within the darkening world, no afterglow
No hem of sunset caught against the hill --
Within the dark we rise, and make to go
Our destined journeys, having but lain down
A moment by the path. What call came through
The heavy darkness, bidding us arise,
Though we are weary still?

It is the call
Of thine own spirit that will not wait on
Thy body's weakness. If the flesh should fail,
It is no matter; spirit cannot fall.

Willis Eberman


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