Saturday night was one for firsts; one expected and one unexpected. I will be up front and say Luísa Maita gave a warmly delightful performance on a chilly, famously windy Chicago evening. Luísa Maita generously graced Logan Square with a silencing performance that centered upon the new voice of Brazil. Her popularity abounds, subjectively confirmed through a friend in Fortaleza far to the north of Luísa’s São Paulo. Logan Square shares a certain similarity to where she comes from, Bexiga, a working class area. How? It’s the new Wicker Park, a youthful neighborhood populated by recent university graduates with little income but massive debts, and Latin American immigrants who color the neighborhood selling delicacies on the streets. It’s this basis that compels me to propel into remark on why this show was awkward yet surrounded by vibrant beauty.
Unlike typical shows at Logan Square Auditorium, as with France’s Yelle or Israel’s Monotonix, this had catered food, candles, and reserved tables. There existed 40 feet or so between the prime places reserved by papers donning last names and the stage. Already, I felt awkward. As a certain crowd entered, dressed to the nines as if the venue retained its pre-2004 wedding and banquet hall usage, the celebration of this young, promising artist’s premiere was overwhelmed by the “What the hell is going on?” element given by the set-up. Thankfully, the stalwart PBR and Heineken at the bar calmed these anxious quivers. And her performance would soon thaw this ambiance…
Luísa Maita was the only performer of the night, accompanied by bassist Fernando Nunes, guitarist Rafa Moraes, and drummer Erico Theoblado (who also ran the sampler and is of Telepathique). The daughter of Amado Maita and Myriam Taubkin, composer and music producer respectively, was subtly introduced by her musicians through the electronic-tinged opening notes of “Anunciou”, which ran in the middle of the tempo off of her Lero-Lero. Through the jazz, brushed drums and plucked acoustic guitar, the overall sound was impressively voluptuous as opposed to the confines of a compact disc Chicagoland had to endure prior to Saturday night. Her voice matched each note in the capoeira-laden song. She did not hesitate withholding “Lero-Lero” back, plunging in with Erico, donning sunglasses, driving the subdue uptempo title track as Fernando and Rafa were clearly accustomed and relaxed musically, giving more warmth to the room than the incandescent and tea lights encircling the room.
Luísa was genuinely appreciative of the outpouring on the current tour, remarking in turn, “You have a very beautiful country” just prior to the song “about a girl from Brazil” of “Desencabulada”. To go from the title track to this was daring, in my own subjective opinion as the two are the strongest, upbeat songs that show beauty in the most outward manner. Thankfully, the live sound of the band completely adds a profound effect to the sound, regardless of what the metronome may have been set to. “Desencabulada”, with its sparse, smooth bass strums reminiscent of the baile funk at the song’s core. I cannot proclaim how many times this song has achieved its own goal of succumbing its listeners to the music, yet it did once again in LSA.
“Amor e Paz” was representative of the evening. In lieu of the slow, restrained shoulder rolls and subtle sways, Luísa perched upon a solitary chair, mic in hand to be accompanied solely by Rafa Moraes. The song, placed in the middle of her set, spotlighted her velvety voice with her hand gently, gracefully countering her voice as if to keep the music calm as an orchestral conductor. It was also representative of the crowd; at times, respectful, and at others, oblivious as people carried on conversations in the back in spite of the acoustic piece. It’s notable in comparison to the utter respectful silence experienced a year and a half ago in Paris; where attendees rest enthralled and enamored.
Shortly thereafter, Luísa performed a surprise, new track in English. Introduced by simplistic, yet brooding notes, the song unrolls and quickens before harmonics introduce the ensuing verse. Hearing a Luísa Maita song in English takes one for a spin, particularly one unacquainted with portuguese, as if being blind and suddenly able to understand everything around. It’s similar to if the world could understand Sigur Rós; it changes reality. Yet, the best was yet to come in the form of “Fulaninha”.
You see, the awkwardness of the evening was the definite juxtaposition of music that, at its core, is meant to dance to with an audience that (yes…I am generalizing and being subjective, but hell…this is how it felt to me and others) views World Music as a PBS special; to sit back, sip wine and explore the world from the comfort of your chair. I am firmly opposed to this, as exoticism died out in the early twentieth century, yet continued Saturday evening until people actually started dancing in front of the stage. Yes, Luísa is from Brazil, but no, the point of music, especially the genres south of our cultural (and geographic) borders, is to evoke emotions and express them through dance, voice and playing instruments. To sit there on tables surrounding a stage, where the only people standing are the performers and the bar patrons in back, is awkward. Yes, her music may be befitting for lounges across America, but it’s made to provoke reactions of the dance variety and not to be an academic research piece to investigate how cultures in South America are progressing in art. It’s why, when I saw people finally take up that aforementioned forty feet width in between the reserved tables and staged, I and others with me were exuberant; when do you have the opportunity to dance to music like this? From São Paulo, nonetheless? Music that my Brazilian friends hear, adore, and use in their own parties? Il faut que vous en profitiez bien.
“Fulaninha” brought out the best in this regard, with the audience handclapping and truly losing themselves in the music and Luísa’s voice. The crowd, enlivened and vivacious, called out for one more. Smiling, excited, she and her band came out for a reprise of “Lero-Lero”. It was not the black and white Beatles invasion, but a collective relaxed, restrained sway of the small crowd in front that allowed Luísa’s music to truly show its purpose, its soul. I know one friend of mine, a dancer, was breathing a breath of unrestrained fresh air as she practiced her moves to the acclaimed, new voice of Brazil.