Chico Buarque in Lisbon: the malandro and the classic, the critic and the dreamer in a tender embrace between Brazil and Portugal

For someone who has spent a good part of her career singing about women, even assuming a unique “feminine self” in many of her songs, the decision to hand over to a singer – Mônica Salmaso from São Paulo – the task of opening the shows on her new tour makes special sense. The 53-year-old artist, known for interpreting the repertoire of numerous MPB giants, had more than the simple role of guest in the first part: it was she who gave voice to the first six themes of the lineup, all by Chico Buarque, lending special beauty to the classic ‘Mar e Lua’, a love story between two women and one of the veteran’s most incredibly visual creations, or ‘Beatriz’, a theme whose lyrics have been subtly altered in the current tour “Que Tal um Samba?” (Instead of life, the actress began to have a “fate”, a change that the author justified by recalling the strange case of the French painter Pierre Bonnard, who made – in secret – retouching of his own paintings, exhibited in museums).

After this kind of prologue, or warm-up, where the ecological ‘Passaredo’ or, right at the opening, the children’s litany ‘Todos Juntos’, written for the musical “Os Saltimbancos”, in 1977, arrived, the man everyone was waiting for arrived. : with shy dance steps, Francisco Buarque de Hollanda, 79 springs to celebrate in a few days, entered the stage in the middle of ‘Para Todos’, the title song of one of the most represented albums in tonight’s concert. It will not be a coincidence that the carioca makes his entrance “on the field” while Mônica Salmaso parades, in the lyrics of the 1993 song, the cast of Olimpo da MPB: “Smoke Ary, smell Vinícius / Drink Nelson Cavaquinho / For a petty heart Against the harsh loneliness / Luiz Gonzaga is a sure shot / Pixinguinha is uncontested / Take Noel, Cartola, Orestes / Caetano and João Gilberto.” To this prescription, which you can continue to consult herejust need to add the name of Chico who, after two concerts in Porto, this Thursday gave the first of three shows in Lisbon.

Like Bob Dylan, that as soon as the Brazilian “liberates” Campo Pequeno will perform live in this room, Chico Buarque also makes a judicious, even whimsical, selection of the songs he brings to the stage with him. It would be easy to build a lineup just by classics: and the reaction of the Campo Pequeno audience to ‘João e Maria’, the last song of the night, or to the brief interpellation of ‘Deus lhe Pague’, from the 1971 classic, “Construção”, shows that this would be an easy path to absolute surrender. However, one of the great songwriters of his generation prefers to put on a different show, one that goes more along a discreet conceptual thread than (only) choruses to sing in unison. On this tour that is now coming to an end, anchored on the theme launched last year, ‘Que Tal um Samba?’, one of the mottos seems to be optimism with post-Bolsonaro Brazil (in this song, there is talk of “frightening away the evil tempo”; revived in 1968, the fourth theme of the evening, ‘Good Weather’, establishes a link with that bonanza after the political storm).

If the octogenarian Bob Dylan, a generational and literary companion of Chico Buarque (one has a Nobel Prize in Literature, another came to Portugal to seek the Camões Prize), is known (and not always applauded) for making radical alterations to his own themes, the man before us tonight proves to be more conservative in these reinventions. But, proving the timelessness of his work, he rediscovers and shares new meanings for his compositions. ‘Bom Tempo’, for example, was released in the middle of the Brazilian military dictatorship, and now serves as a (more) happy metaphor for the time the country is going through. In the first words he utters in this Lisbon “residence”, the author chooses to recall the words of ”O Velho Francisco”, an elderly ex-slave, at the end of his life. In the 1987 classic, the bitter memories of the man whose memory remains are sung with a musical joy that can only be the result of the immense wealth of the planet Brazil, which Chico and Mônica had just glossed over in ‘Para Todos’. And, continuing with the plan of giving voice to those who least can, ‘engages’ in ‘Sinhá’, theme of the most recent good “Chico”, from 2011, once again reporting the life of an unfree man (an urgency that, in rest, addressed in the acknowledgment speech of the Camões Prize).

Chico Buarque

Leo Aversa

In addition to the joy and hope that Brazil inspires in him in 2023, and the omnipresent concern with social issues, Chico Buarque subtly introduces other themes to the shows that Lisbon will be able to see until Saturday: there are the somewhat derogatory self-portraits (with the great ‘ Bastidores’, from 1980), the most meta songs, in which he reflects on his craft and his raw material (such as the brilliant ‘Choro Bandido’, in which he assumes himself as a “fake” singer, capable of the most beautiful creations), and love, always love. At times, this love appears crossed with humor, as in the jovial ‘Biscate’, originally sung with Gal Costa and today shared with Mônica Salmaso, or in ‘Imagina’, in which he jokes, over a merry arrangement of flutes in hand: “You know that the boy who passes under the rainbow becomes a girl, turns / The girl who crosses the rainbow quickly becomes a boy again”. In other cases, love is pure drama poured into poetry. Freed from its somewhat dated 1993 arrangements, ‘Futuros Amantes’ is the best example of this intensity. Here, Chico Buarque imagines a future in which his Rio de Janeiro will be a submerged city, where divers will discover not only traces of a strange civilization but also traces of an unrequited love, which could be used by the humans of that future, at no extra cost. It is a song that discovers altruism in despair, and one of the most beautiful of this man who, with an image of the Marvelous City in the background of the stage, reveals himself to be a kind of wonder of nature.

That Chico Buarque – “our Chico”, as many fondly refer to him – choosing this repertoire will have to do with a conceptual concern, as has been the habit over the years, but possibly also with the need to adapt the songs to the voice , which shows the limitations inherent to age (and which Campo Pequeno’s acoustics don’t treat especially well either). It is with tenderness and intelligence that Mônica Salmaso joins him, in songs like ‘Sem Fantasia’ or ‘Injuriado’, sharing moments with their master that, more than duets, seem like smooth skirmishes, or even dialogues. The fragility that, occasionally, Chico Buarque reveals (“I make my little mistakes”, he will joke, towards the end) contrasts with the generosity of his delivery. Through Campo Pequeno, classic Chico and malandro Chico, criticism and dreams, utopia and dismay passed.

Despite the freshness of the first decades of his discography, it is also worth noting the excellent figure that songs from more recent vintages do: ‘Tipo um Baião’, for example, is just over ten years old and starts with one of the most memorable cues of the night. . “I don’t know why another love story at this hour”, recognizes the narrator, before presenting his effective mixture of love & humor, in a seductively dry song (and which proves that the mutation of the word “type” happened, apparently, in parallel on both sides of the Atlantic). Over time, recognizes Chico Buarque himself, his production became scarcer, but more refined. Released last year, the song ‘Que Tal um Samba?’, which names this tour, is evidence of this: brief and apparently simple, it is a prodigy of restraint & content, painting with accurate, almost merciless strokes, a moment of joy. As if, in order to celebrate, we shouldn’t brush off the pain that was left behind – on the contrary, sublimating it is the path of light.

Chico Buarque

Leo Aversa

With this love letter for Brazil, Chico said goodbye for the first time to the public in Lisbon, very rich in Brazilian fans. On his return, he recalled his sister Miúcha, the singer who also disappeared in 2018, with ‘Maninha’, and gently balanced on ‘Noite dos Mascarados’, whose evocation of Carnival lifted the audience in a happy dance. Already expected, the docking of ‘Tanto Mar’ in Campo Pequeno spread smiles of happiness and communion around the room. Launched in Portugal in 1975, and “released” in Brazil three years later, it is a dedication to the 25th of April and the most beautiful illustration of the fraternal embrace between sister countries. After this monument to freedom, ‘João e Maria’ joined the thousands who filled the first night in Lisbon in the sweetest and most memorable of choirs.

Beautifully accompanied by a seven-member band, and finding a safe harbor in the sure voice and sober presence of Mônica Salmaso, Chico Buarque heard some of the greatest ovations when, alone, he sat down to sing his own words. Voice and guitar is, here, a recipe as simple and infallible as bread and butter (or another favorite delicacy of the reader). Showing the usual criteria and parsimony – thus sacrificing occasional flashes of spontaneity -, he poured poetry in ‘Todo o Sentimento’, joked with the audience in ‘Bancarrota Blues’, recalled Gal Costa in ‘Mil Perdões’, imagined his end in ‘ Settlement’. He came, once again, to the country that (also) loves him to celebrate a miracle called Brazil. Before the first encore, the applause echoed with weight and strength under the roof of Campo Pequeno. More than the great music we just heard, a life was applauded.

Chico Buarque, Camões Prize 2019

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Chico Buarque in Lisbon, June 1, 2023 – lineup

Monica Salmaso
1. All Together
2. Sea and Moon
3. Passaredo
4. Good Weather
5. Beatriz
6. For everyone

Chico Buarque and Monica Salmaso
7. Old Francisco
8. Sinhá
9. No Fantasy
10. odd job
11. Imagine

Chico Buarque
12. Choro Bandit
13. Tailored
14. Backstage
15. A Thousand Pardons
16. Samba do Grande Amor
17. Injuriado – with Mônica Salmaso
18. Like a Baião
19. My Girls
20. A Denatured Song – with Mônica Salmaso
21. Morro Dois Irmãos
22. Future Lovers
23. Settlement
24. Bankruptcy Blues
25. With All Feeling
26. Oh My Guri
27. The Caravans (featuring ‘God Pay Him’)
28. How about a Samba? (with ‘Samba da Bênção’ and ‘O Samba da Minha Terra’) – with Mônica Salmaso

Chico Buarque and Monica Salmaso
29. little sister
30. Night of the Masked
31. Both Sea
32. John and Mary

Source: Expresso by

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