For a man who last played in London with Frank Sinatra, the city, nay the country had been waiting along time to show their appreciation for Sergio Mendes, so I knew it would be no time at all till the Barbican’s ‘no dancing in aisles’ prohibition was crushed under foot and this Brazilian legend was being dragged out for his umpteenth encore.
With some 35 albums under his belt Sergio Mendes is an icon, and is, as the title of his new album states, Timeless. Adored by Gilles Peterson who did a pre-show DJ set in the Barbican’s foyer and introduced the great man, Sergio is hot stuff and after entrapping some of the sharpest, funkiest R&B and hip-hop artists to work on his latest album, this guy certainly knows how to party.
Dressed in a baby blue Hawaiian shirt and bright red shoes, he planted himself behind his keyboard and led the audience on a musical journey from 1960s Bossa Nova to his contemporary collaborations, drawing in samba, jazz riffs, bahian beats and rap and reminded everyone exactly why Timeless was an appropriate title for his comeback album.
The night warmed up slowly. It was the mind boggling percussion, courtesy of the mesmerising Meia-Noite, whose hands ran over the bongo drums so quickly it seemed inevitable that either he or them would explode, that really kicked things off. A gifted percussionist can give even the most unexciting instrument sex appeal, and it was with much delight that he coaxed a tambourine into a shimmering vibration of silver discs, with the audience whooping like they were watching the Chippendales strip.
Rapper Krishna Booker, filling in for the more self-aggrandising rappers that feature on Timeless like Q-tip and Black Eyed Peas‘ Will.i.am, also created a furore with his seriously impressive beat boxing skills. Vocalist Dawn Bishop was resplendent in a tight red lycra cat suit, shaking samba style across the stage. She had a phenomenal voice, great range and performed The Look of Love with a sweetness and grace that was spine tingling. E Menina was another mammoth crowd pleaser.
What really made the audience kick off its Sunday night torpor and leap to their feet was Mas Que Nada, the reworking of the 40-year-old original now featuring on Nike’s Jogo Bonito advert with vocals from Will.i.am. This song is an infectious anthem, an instant feel good hit, that’s impossible to resist and had everyone waving their hands in the air, hollering the chorus and dancing with reckless abandon.
Some three encores later Senor Mendes was finally allowed to retire to the haven of the green room after buoying up every soul in the place with his chilled out bossa and joyous samba.