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Review: Seu Jorge—A Tribute to David Bowie

<p>Not often is the spirit of a legendary performer so clearly present in the inevitable tribute concerts they inspire. But Seu Jorge’s &#8216;Life Aquatic—a Tribute to David Bowie&#8217; is more than a tribute concert; it’s a transcendent, dreamy homage to Bowie’s genius.</p>

Not often is the spirit of a legendary performer so clearly present in the inevitable tribute concerts they inspire. But Seu Jorge’s ‘Life Aquatic—a Tribute to David Bowie’ is more than a tribute concert; it’s a transcendent, dreamy homage to Bowie’s genius.

On Wednesday night at the Melbourne Recital Centre Seu Jorge took to the candlelit stage dressed in his powder blue tracksuit and red beanie, which he donned in Wes Anderson’s 2004 film, The Life Aquatic. Funny and irreverent, the Brazilian singer spoke of being unfamiliar with Bowie’s music when Anderson asked him to cover his greatest hits. “The first song I hear is ‘Changes’, and it blew my mind.” He recalled.

Surrounded by a simple set with subtle nods to The Life Aquatic—fishing nets and shipping crates—Jorge needed little more than a seat and a guitar to accompany his deep, booming voice. Red beanies dotted an audience completely enthralled by Jorge’s serenades.

There’s something transcendent about hearing these songs in another language. Jorge’s Portuguese renditions of the classics relocate Ziggy Stardust’s intergalactic space travels to the streets of Brazil, and somehow, it’s a perfect fit. The language barrier dissolved with the first strums of Jorge’s Brazilian six-string guitar, with highlights including his translation of Bowie’s fiery, guitar-laden ‘Rebel Rebel’ into a romantic Bossa Nova, and a tentative but harmonious crowd sing-along to ch-ch-ch-changes.

Perhaps music really is the universal language. Watching a Brazilian singer perform the songs of an English musician to an Australian crowd is a funny, brilliant spectacle. Seu Jorge’s covers are familiar and yet exotic at the same time.

Of Jorge’s interpretations Bowie once said, “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portugeuse I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.” These songs are perfect anyway, and it’s a tribute to Bowie’s genius song writing and composition that they can be so seamlessly transmuted into a distinctly foreign language and style.

Seu Jorge’s Melbourne performance was met with a wholehearted standing ovation, and I was left with a distinct sense that Bowie would have approved.

It’s a feat to take on some of the most celebrated work in music history, but in Seu Jorge’s hands, Bowie’s classics are infused with new and unique meaning. In a post-Bowie world, it’s a treasure to be able to fall in love with his music all over again.

 

Seu Jorge—Life Aquatic a Tribute to David Bowie was presented by Melbourne Recital Centre by arrangement with Bluesfest Touring.

 
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