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all words and photos: Chris Svetlik

It was a cold rainy night Monday, and Bebel Gilberto was dishing up warm servings of intimate Brazilian lyricism in the 930 Club. For the uninitiated, Bebel is a Grammy-nominated genre-hopping singer from Rio whose styles dance around from bossa nova to pop to samba to some harder rock stuff. She comes from musical royalty, being the daughter of João Gilberto (the inventor of bossa nova, and the man who brought “The girl from Ipanema” into the world) and the niece of Chico Buarque. I had never seen her live and went into this show with not-super-high expectations, as all the stuff I had heard of hers before had a bit too much of a generic contemporary World music vibe to it.

Live, however, she was phenomenal.


First of all, she’s a fantastic singer. Great range—very quickly she can slide from bright, fun, poppy songs to deep, sultry, slow burning bossa nova, and her voice is always the perfect thing for the music. The relatively stripped-down band—guy on drums/percussion, guy on keys, guy on sax/flute, guy on guitar/bass—provided tight and appropriate accompaniment. All the musicians on stage came across as masters of the various disparate genres they played.

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Then, Bebel has an absolutely adorable stage presence. She struts around, dances sexily, sits down and croons from a stool, gets back up, waves her arms, claps, does it all over again, and just makes every male in the room fall in love with her generally. She is very natural on stage, which makes sense as she’s been performing to big audiences in the US since the age of 9. She was also pretty participatory, interacting with the crowd lightheartedly in both Portuguese and English. My favorite part was when she stopped the show saying, “Now soomething very verrrry impoortant”—then stops to giggle uncontrollably for a bit—“we have here Carlos and Lydia who have been married 13 years this day—their 13th birthday of love! Thank you sooo much for loving my songs too!” Cute (!).

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During the first half of the show she stuck with more recent MPB recordings, then eventually she started mixing it up with the likes of a Stevie Wonder/Sergio Mendes cover (“The Real Thing”), and eventually indulged herself in some sambas at the end, saying she’s glad she’s finally able to play these again.


The crowd was eating it up—the venue was packed, wall-to-wall with Bebel-loving Brazilian expats. The Brazilians of DC definitely love their live music, and come out in full force to support their national artists. Definitely a great show for a night when everyone just wants to bundle up

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