"I can't tell you how much I've been expecting to perform in New York," said Maria Rita as she nervously began her sold-out, unforgettable performance at Irving Plaza on a spring Saturday night.
Backed by a four-piece band (percussion, drums, piano, acoustic bass), she opened with a jazz-inflected arrangement of "Conta Outra"(Tell Me Another Story), a song that appears as a funky samba on her sophomore album, Segundo. She quickly moved to "Mal-Intento," a Jorge Drexler-penned song that is also on the album. After greeting the audience, she gave a spirited, heartfelt performance of "Tristesse," a song from Milton Nascimento's Pietá CD (in which she also appeared).
The music did not only emanate from from her voice--her whole body seemed to become part of the music, and her face contorted with the emotion that emanated from the song's lyrics, something especially noticeable on "Encontros e Despedidas" (Meetings and Goodbyes) and during other moments
Everyone sang along to the hits from the first album, such as the bluesy "Nao Vale A Pena"(It's Not Worth It). Drummer Cuca Teixeira kept a syncopated beat on it, and Rita responded by letting her body follow the song's rhythm. "Pagú," a once-obscure Rita Lee song that she now owns also got a very good reception, and the audience responded by clapping and singing along with it.
A general silence took over as she sang the highly emotional Chico Buarque/Edu Lobo heartbreak song, "Sobre Todas As Coisas," with a single light shining above her. Looking from the advantage point of the video monitor, one could see how completely she gave herself to the song.
Walking barefoot over a straw mat, she took on O Rappa's "A Minha Alma," originally a very electric song. In her hands, the song had a jazz-funk feel dominated by percussionist Da Lua and pianist Tiago Augusto. On "Santa Chuva" (Holy Rain), the accusatory lyrics received a whole new meaning through Maria Rita's body language, in which she actually seemed to be talking to a former love.
She concluded the concert with a medley that included "O Recado" (The Message), which featured the singer accompanied solely by the cuica of Da Lua, who was later joined by the other musicians, finally closing with "A Festa," the song that opened the début.
Rita's voice has always been impressive, but this live performance turned this writer into a complete fan--she has fantastic interpretative skills, and the richness of her voice is completed by her body language and a tight backing band.