concert review

Concert Review: Brazilian Girls, Oct 4, Diesel Playhouse, Toronto

Posted on by Brian in Concerts | 1 Comment

Brazilian Girls

Brazilian Girls seem to be a hard act to really get a handle on.

The eclectic quartet have a seemingly very simple formula: drums, keys, bass, a sultry female vocalist and a reputation for enthusiastic live shows featuring a lot of audience participation. Complicating things slightly are lyrics in no less than five different languages,a departed bassist (founding member Jesse Murphy is reportedly “on hiatus,” so they’re breaking in a new guy), and a whirlwind touring and recording schedule that seems to put them in every major festival lineup and has seen the band release three albums in four years.

As if that weren’t enough, complicating things further on this night is the fact that the venue, Diesel Playhouse, is, well, a playhouse, with little room for moving to the band’s more danceable tracks; that after a solid self-titled debut that was roundly acclaimed as one of the best albums of 2005, the band’s last two efforts, 2006’s Talk to La Bomb and the recently released New York City, are more than a bit scattered (though NYC is an improvement); and that singer Sabina Sciubba is about five months pregnant.

I’d never seen Brazilian Girls before, but based on their reputation for wild, fantastical live shows and being a fan (mostly) of their albums, my expectations were high. And man, was I ever disappointed.

The whole show just seemed off. Even the opening DJ, whose statement “I’ve never performed in front of this many people sitting and staring at me” essentially summed up my thoughts on having a dance DJ perform in such a static environment with next to no space for dancing, and that’s all I’m going to say about his set, seemed to sense it.

Opening with “L’interprete,” the slowest track off the new album, and “Jique,” the opener off Talk to La Bomb, Brazilian Girls just never seemed to bring the kind of energy I’d expected. Nominally an album release party for NYC, out of the seven or so tracks the band played from that release only “Berlin,” “St. Petersburg,” and “Good Time” were really notable. As the best track off the new album, a poppy, fun tune with a chorus (“We just want to have a good time, tonight/we just want to have a good time all the time”) ripe for an audience sing-along, “Good Time” was surprisingly lifeless, thought not nearly as lifeless as the band’s rendition of the similarly fun “Don’t Stop” from their first album, which was almost unrecognizable compared to the recorded version. The rest of the set was inexplicably devoted mostly to tracks from Talk to La Bomb, which, as an album, sometimes sounds like a hastily written, poorly thought out mistake. The band mostly ignored their debut, save for a decent version of “Cornerstore,” and “Pussy,” the last song of the night and a crowd-pleaser, with it’s chorus of “pussy, pussy, pussy, marijuana,” which many members of the crowd’s front row sang as Sciubba shared her microphone.

As much fun as Sciubba was as she moved about the small stage trying to whip the crowd of several hundred seated fans into a frenzy, the rest of the band was completely stationary and looked kind of uninterested in the whole ordeal. It seems a bit unfair to ask a woman who’s five months pregnant to create all the on stage energy, and Sciubba, in a skintight beige bodysuit covered by what looked like a living room curtain that drew a lot of attention to her pregnant belly, could only do so much. At their best, Sciubba and Brazilian Girls’ recorded sound is fun, sexy, upbeat and introspective, the vocals alternately sultry and playfully teasing. Unfortunately, for any number of possible reasons, like the venue, the setlist, Sciubba’s physical limitations (really, given the pregnancy, it’s amazing she can stand for as long as she did), none of that came through on this night.


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