|Ana Moura- the fadista|
Knowing it was inevitable didn't make it any easier to see her face and in the back of my mind I often wondered during these last 10 1/2 weeks how I would react when it was finally in front of me. My imaginings of the moment lurked in the darker part of my consciousness like a beast in a jungle, waiting to devour me once I came upon it if only given a half chance. Though I certainly wasn't ready for it, I felt- no, I knew- it would happen at this performance. Some things you just know, and as she once told me, I possess a "Gypsy-like" way of knowing certain things. This prescience (for what else can you can call it?), saved my life on more than one occasion, the most memorable being when it kept me from sitting in the front seat of a car for no apparent reason (and much to my mother's protestations), only to avoid being there 10 minutes later when the entire passenger side was creamed by a car running a red light. In retrospect it's more than odd I possess this "gift" yet there are so many things I willfully turned a blind eye toward for months on end- the things we choose to ignore, because the fantasy has much more appeal than the reality. Yet there we were, to hear music that was centered in the reality of matters of the heart, of life, the reality of what is- not the fantasies of people who pursue an illusion. Fado is a Portuguese version of the blues- or Greek rembetika- music which reflects life, giving it a universal, indestructible appeal.
Scanning the orchestra section of the Herbst Theater, I didn't see them, which didn't surprise me because I know he likes to buy the cheap seats, so they were probably sitting upstairs in the balcony. It was only after the show, when I noticed the table in the lobby for the fadista to sign CDs that I knew that's where they would be. And then, as if on cue, there they were.
It was the first time I've ever seen them together, though I have seen him before. As a couple, they resembled a lemur and a panther placed in the same cage- as if proximity would erase the incongruity. It doesn't. She went off to do something (check her make-up, I presume, but perhaps to text her newest victim), while he dutifully took his place in line for an autograph, waiting for her to come join him. I knew she was the one who wanted the CD and the autograph. The things he's done for her astound me- he knows most of it, if not all, and yet he's still there.
Do you remember the Joe Jackson song "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" It's not quite the song I would use to describe how I felt at that moment, but it comes pretty close. If the song were to really mirror the reality it would have been called "Did She Really Go Back to Him?" When she returned to the line he took leave of her, most likely headed to the restroom, and there stood the Femme Fatale, alone in the queue with her back to me. I approached her from behind and touched her neck. Not a gentle touch, but certainly without the force with which not long ago I used to use at her request. She spun around. Our eyes met for a brief moment, less than a second it seemed, before I turned away from her and made my way into the night.
It was one of those moments you replay in your head, endlessly considering the myriad alternatives of what could have happened at that moment, now irretrievable.
Before all of this, the fadista- Ana Moura- closed out SFJazz's Spring Season with what was essentially a masterclass in the "less is more" school of divadom, from which Beyonce and Gaga might well take some lessons. Taking the stage under a single spotlight in the Fado tradition, dressed in a gown which stated in no uncertain terms she was unapologetic to show off a real woman's figure, Moura proceeded to entrance the assembled for a brief set (less than an hour and a 1/2) that covered a lot of ground and yet at the same time left us feeling as if we had just watched, been witness to, something unique and special.
Moving little more than her left shoulder in what could only be described as a half-shimmy and sometimes moving her hips to rhythm, Ana Moura simply owned the stage. Talent and presence trump flash every time, and she has enough of both to burn. Yet she never more than smoldered, and that was enough- her stage persona is warm and inviting, not distant nor aloof. She knows she's sexy. She knows she talented. She knows that's enough and the rest is just unnecessary when one possesses these gifts. Women like that can make any audience succumb, whether the audience constists of one or a thousand- and collectively, we did. Speaking in Portuguese, and sometimes in English, she led her three accomplished accompanists through a set that left me feeling like I was standing in a gentle rain on a beach during a warm evening. That's probably not what one associates with fado- more commonly found in dark clubs, preferably late at night, but Moura's voice and demeanor transport the listener to a gentler, sultrier place. It's no wonder both Prince and the Stones have wanted to work with her.
For me there was a distinct irony when she performed the Stones' "No Expectations," with its refrain "I got no expectations, to pass through here again" - toward the end the Femme and I were on a Stones jag, writing back and forth the songs we thought most appropriate to our situation like two kids in high school. I left the exchange with "Stupid Girl."
"Fado de Procura," from the album Para Além Da Saudade turned out to be another highlight- a lighter touch giving the musicians a chance to shine with some extra fancy fretwork. Moura's was a graceful, elegant performance. I wish I could say the same about the myself and the Femme Fatale, but this was fado- the blues, and you and I know it sometimes just doesn't work out that way.
Leaving the Femme Fatale behind, without a word said between us, I made my way into the night, heightened in its usual craziness because it was Pink Saturday in San Francisco- a night when the air surges with electricity as gay people congregate from all over to celebrate in one of their few Meccas. Thankfully I had plans for afterward, so for awhile at least, the encounter I'd left behind was just that- behind me as I went to meet out Isabella. But some things leave a trace long after they've been left behind or abandoned.
To be continued- without a doubt.