By Grady Cardeiro
What good are livestream concerts, when our hearts ache for the real thing? Brazilian singer Laura Lavieri knows that these virtual shows are not the same celebrations that we recall with nostalgia, but rather, they are an opportunity to “remember what matters [...] and rethink everything.” With that sentiment in mind, on the evening of Sunday March 14th, she gathered with a masked band and a small tech crew at São Paulo’s Estúdio Fiaca to share a performance via Itaú Cultural. Thousands of miles away, I tuned in on Zoom, from my bedroom at home.
Laura Lavieri launched her solo career in 2018 with her debut album Desastre Solar. Her music draws on influences from soul, ‘80s rock, samba reggae, pagode, and Jovem Guarda (a famous Brazilian TV show somewhere between Soul Train and the Ed Sullivan Show, which spawned its own genre). Several selections from her debut made Sunday's setlist where Lavieri was joined by Paulo Emmery on guitar, Uiu Lopes on bass, Pedro Kremer da Motta on keyboard, and Theo Ceccato on drums. The group presented the livestream as an invitation to the public “to get in touch with complex feelings amidst the depths of a pandemic replete with crises'' (as translated to English). The results left my heart racing.
The show opened with a heartfelt greeting and invocation from Laura, delivered at a speed too fast for my tired brain to translate to English. All the while, attendees greeted each other in the chat tab, expressing their excitement and gratitude for the evening. The stream then cut away to a wider shot, revealing a sparsely lit black box theatre and a band clad in all black to match. Lavieri guided her easygoing bandmates through a heart-wrenching delivery of their opening song, the sound pushing from peaceful to throbbing and back again. At this point, I gave up on trying to translate, and simply let the music pour over me. Then, the VHS-style camera cut to a closeup of Laura as the lights changed to a rich teal. Her expression was soaked in color as a bluesy guitar lick lamented and meshed into the fabric of the song. Glistening keyboard accompaniment led the band to a breaking point, where they had to pull back and let Laura fly on her own. She soared.
Wasting no time on banter, Lavieri later took a quick swig of water and counted the band into her latest release and a collaboration with Jupiter Maça, “Welcome to the Shade.” The hypnotic keyboard ripples throughout the track reminded me of Pink Floyd as the lyrics reflect on a year of quarantine. The evening’s only lyrics in English left me to contemplate saudade — this is an untranslatable Portuguese word which represents feelings of melancholy nostalgia for love which may never return. As my focus returned to the present, Laura clutched the mic stand as she rose from the tall stool on which she had been sitting.
The lights then shifted to a warm orange, and Lavieri resembled a young Bette Davis, wearing a flowing black dress like one Stevie Nicks might admire. The band glided into a new song, which I instantly recognized as “Mais um Whiskey” from Desastre Solar — however, this version began with a much more laid-back approach. Laura’s voice pierced through the first lyrics, and the band found themselves clinging to a sticky groove. Soon, smiles trickled through the initially somber mood. It felt like a moment of great triumph, to be sharing this song despite every obstacle. She vocalized through an electrifying bridge, and smashed through the refrain, coupled with an echo effect, which would prove difficult to an uninitiated singer. This was one tight band.
The next song required only one chord to carry it forward. The feeling it created was magical, astral, as Laura took the mic in hand to sway with the beat, like a reed in a gentle breeze. Her beaming smile radiated through the screen as the music waned — the last song is here. The keyboard opens with familiar chords and the band launches into “Deixa Acontecer”. Judging by the chat, it is not just a hit, but a fan favorite too. I fight the urge to shout along until I cannot any longer. Suddenly, I find myself bursting into song in my own room, so many miles away. Belting out the chorus, Laura’s voice fills my stomach with butterflies. Soon, the band sinks into a vamp and Laura thanks the band and crew. The chat erupts with applause emojis, exclamations of awe, and even a chant of “Fora Bozo” (literally ‘Out Bolsonaro’, Brazil’s proto-fascist president who has frequently mocked the pandemic) takes off. The outro of the song is repeated, this time with Laura singing scat along with the band. The band hits a stinging exclamation point, the final note, and the stream cuts to black. Credits rolled by, and I was immobilized for a lingering moment until, at last, the Zoom meeting was terminated.
Laura and her team put on an amazing production, which guided listeners along the razor’s edge of heartbreak and triumph. Laura was right; the show made me think about what really matters: music, our web of scenes and communities around the globe, and the sweat and practice that makes a show unforgettable. It also let me rethink my biases against online shows; I was awestruck by musicians who I would’ve never been able to hear had it not taken place online. The evening was a reminder that there is a global scene of musicians and fans, unheard by awards shows and playlist algorithms. It has always been there. Its power is to unite strangers across cities and hemispheres, and to make the dream of a better world irresistible.
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