(Jazz Café 11th July 2011. Review by Sofia Wilde)
Sao Paolo-born ‘CéU’ (Portuguese for ‘Sky’) got her big break via Starbucks. She was the first international artist signed to the ‘Starbucks Hear Music’ series who re-released her eponymous debut album in 2007. The album sold just short of 200,000 copies plus she received a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Contemporary World Music Album.’ That’s the strength of coffee.
CéU gave her first major UK concert last year at Hackney Empire as part of the Barbican’s Blaze program. This week she had her London Jazz Café debut. She made her entrance coolly, to a highly appreciative and expectant crowd that was working itself up to get seriously laid-back.
Since Bebel Gilberto released ‘Tanto Tempo’, Brazilian music has enjoyed a resurgence, and CéU can be commended for being a part of that. But live, CéU and her band lacked any real emotional attachment to the songs. Her set was an eclectic mix of samba, reggae, afro-beat, electro-pop and pretty much everything in between. As for dynamics – aside from the encore when she was accompanied by drums and DJ only – the set remained at the same level.
Nevertheless, the crowd loved her. She has a strong, supportive following and she certainly delivered enough to see that they were happy. Highlights were her performance of ‘Lenda’, a clear favourite with the audience, and the one English song in her set, ‘Papa’, where CéU advised us “not to take ourselves too seriously”.
The title of her second album ‘Vagarosa’ (Six Degrees, 2009) translates as ‘slow, easygoing and leisurely.’ (The late Charlie Gillett loved it.) CéU’s performance was exactly that. Her albums make great lazy Summer days’ listening, and her voice – whilst not jaw dropping – has lovely dulcet tones, perfect for this style of music. At the end of the night the audience were shouting out for more. I just needed a strong coffee.