I couldn’t understand it. The 1500 seat Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University was almost entirely sold out for the Gilberto Gil concert tonight. Gil was in good form, playing with his six piece Broadband. The audience clearly was enthralled. But throughout the almost two hour concert, people were coming in late, leaving their seats (often with cell phones in hand), and returning to their seats. I have never seen that in a concert before. It was as if everyone had overlooked the need to go to the bathroom before they took their seats.
The concert itself was quite good, even if the decibel level was about twice as high as it needed to be. But this is always the case, isn’t it? I had not seen Gil before, had read about him a few times, and did not know what to expect. What I got was a loud mix of Brazilian and other music, often merged together. Much of it was successful; some things (like “The Girl from Ipanema” played with a slow reggae beat) were not. Much of the music was written by Gil; this was, I thought, the best.
It was a typical Washington audience for an Afro-Brazilian musician of his stature. Anglos like myself (I count any Caucasian who only speaks English as an Anglo, even if you are Jewish or Italian or what have you), African-Americans (now how would I know that? I guess I should say “blacks”, but I am not sure that is PC here), and Brazilians (presumably of all colors). But we all looked like we could be good friends (which I believe is probably the case), and enjoyed the music equally.
There were a lot of heads bobbing, and shoulders moving, and hands clapping throughout the show. Along, of course, with people moving in and out. Towards the end, a number of people (all young women, I believe) moved to the aisles and starting moving a little bit more freely. Then, before you knew it, 1400 people were on their feet for the last 15 minutes or so. I thought I was in Gulliver’s version of the 9:30 Club.
It was a great send off for Gil, whom I believe is ending his US tour with this concert. To see so many of his landsmen enjoy his music so much was clearly something he appreciated, as did the Broadband members. And Gil, who is going to turn 66 on Thursday, sang and moved for almost two hours. OK, so his movement is not quite Chuck Berry, but whose is? And his voice is very, very strong.
A good time seemed to be had by all.