Mercury doesn't rise

The ex-pat Brazilian community was out in force on Friday night, filling in a good portion of Oakland's Paramount Theatre to see Daniela Mercury. The warm weather only added to the sense that a party was about to take place, and there were plenty of exceptionally attractive people on hand to drive the point home. Inside the theater a large scrim featuring Carybé's "Mulata" replaced the curtain, only adding more to the somewhat hedonistic atmosphere.

Carybé's "Mulata": step inside!

The show in large part didn't deliver on the promise, though there were certainly some fine moments.There was some grumbling in the crowd about the lack of dancing space inside the venue and as the show progressed the grumbling grew a little louder, indeed in some spots it was down bitchy, as the security folks at the theater kept clearing the aisles of people who just wanted to get down. The Paramount's a beautiful theater to be sure, but it may not have been the best venue for this particular gig. In two weeks the "no dancing in aisles" policy is going to meet a serious challenge when the "Slavic spectacle" rolls into Oaktown.

Mercury and her band started off slowly, taking about an hour to build into a full burn, though the audience was with her from the start. Perhaps accustomed to much longer shows in Brazil, she didn't pace the first half very well, and her five dancers initially distracted from, rather than complimented the show- at least while they were dressed in white- when they returned to the stage during the second hour dressed in red, they began to tear it up. A weird part came early on when Mercury stopped everything introduce Carmen Miranda. Isabella and exchanged curious looks of anticipation, both of us thinking wait a minute- Carmen Miranda is still alive? Of course she's not- she died in 1955 and would be 103 if she were alive today, but we had a couple of Manhattans before the show. What followed was a creepy rendition of "O Que E Que a Baina Tem" (What Is It that the Bahaian Woman Has?) from her latest album Canibália (Cannibalism). I'd like to propose a permanent moratorium on duets with dead people. It's never a good idea. In the middle of the set there was a misguided attempt at bossa nova, which surely isn't Mercury's thing, and the with the dancers offstage, the show started to sag a bit just when Mercury could have been expected to start heating things up.

A terrific version of "Estrelas" got things back on track, with Mercury's son Gabriel Povoas taking on Tony Garrido's vocal part of the duet (her daughter Giovana is one of the dancers). Once they finally got there, a long, tedious version of "Sol du Sol" almost derailed it again. In the end, she kicked it into high Afro-Brazilian gear, largely turning the stage over to her dancers to provide the excitement, especially the amazing Leticia Cardoso Dos Santos, who simply shook everyone else to shame. The two-hour set was just getting started, and then it was over. Oddly, Mercury kept addressing the crowd as "San Francisco," all night, never once acknowledging that we were actually in Oakland- and to paraphrase Gert, you can't there if you don't even know where there is, and that's kind of the best way I can describe this strangely lukewarm concert.

The show was presented by SFJazz, and if you if you want to catch the next big party on their schedule, one that promises to deliver, you don't want to miss Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra on October 28th. This one's also going to be at the Paramount, but having been to one their gigs before, I have a hard time imagining how they're going to keep people out of the aisles for this one.

Mercury is in the midst of a North American tour. Check her website for more appearances.