Published Nov 16, 2016The queue outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was dotted with red toques last night (November 15), and later amongst the seated crowd, matching the weighted stage curtains. The hatted heads were paying homage to Steve Zissou and his team, Team Zissou, from Wes Anderson's 2004 film, The Life Aquatic. And it was Brazilian musician Seu Jorge who brought them all together.
For the first time since performing them during the filming of The Life Aquatic, Jorge brought his covers of David Bowie songs that he recorded — originally to be solely for Anderson's film — to life. Nautical set pieces were scattered about the stage, and there in the middle of it all sat Jorge, red hat on head, wearing that iconic light blue jumpsuit. Opening with "Ziggy Stardust," Jorge made his way through the 14 Bowie songs that he covered, ranging from 1967's David Bowie through 1974's Diamond Dogs.
"Years ago I got a call, and they asked if I knew David Bowie. I said, the guy with blonde hair? Two different coloured eyes? Looks like Billy Idol?" said Jorge to a crowd that hung on his every word. "This song completely changed my life, blew my mind. I'm a black man from Brazil, I don't listen to rock and roll," he said before heading into "Changes," off of 1971's Hunky Dory.
He took the time between songs to regale the crowd with a bit of storytelling, mostly reminiscing on his time on set with Anderson and the cast. "This man gave me this," Jorge said as he pointed to his suit, "and this," pointing to his hat, "and cut my hair, I had dreadlocks before. I saw the ship, the Belafonte, and I was completely nervous.
I forgot all the names," he said, referring to the film's stars. "'Oh, this is Ghostbusters! Oh, Jurassic Park!'" he laughed, charmingly referring to actors Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum. "The only things I understand are Portuguese, music and a little French. Anjelica Huston spoke a little French, so she helped me."
His early concerns about execution — "Wes said, 'Today I want to shoot you, can you do "Rebel, Rebel"?' I said, 'Can you give me 15 minutes?' So I found a private place and tried it, it was shit. How can I do rock and roll with just me and a guitar?" — are long forgotten by now. Last night, Jorge nailed each and every song.
"Rebel, Rebel," a very spirited version of "Starman" and "Lady Stardust" were crowd-pleasers. Jorge's interpretations of the classic Bowie songs are true delights; he somehow sweetens them despite being stripped down to but an acoustic guitar and a voice, and adds in touches that only he could — neat little guitar flourishes on "Suffragette City," that deep register on "Rock & Rock Suicide" and fitting, otherworldly reverb on "Space Oddity." A girl squealed loudly during "Quicksand," which must have inspired Jorge to really give his all during the second half of the song.
Jorge dedicated "Life on Mars?" to his father and Bowie, both of whom passed earlier this year. And as a screen with snippets of The Life Aquatic, interspersed with photographs of Bowie, played behind him, everyone in that room was treated to a beautiful evening of celebration and remembrance.