Gilberto Gil Massey Hall, Toronto ON March 15

Given the enormous influence Brazilian music has instilled throughout the world, when a rare chance comes along to see one of Brazil’s most prolific cultural contributors here in the Canadian north, well, that’s a chance you’d be foolish to waste. That was the sentiment of the anxious Massey Hall crowd that turned out to see Brazilian Cultural Minister and true musical patriarch Gilberto Gil stripped down for a completely intimate solo acoustic performance. The singer arrived punctually on stage and quickly went to work, warming the atmosphere with his ever-present smile as he plucked his way dexterously through the complex, reworked arrangements of his many classics. Humble, charismatic and inviting, Gil wove his songs together expertly with brief explanations and insights, like the clever pronouncement of his recent 64th birthday that saw him slide into a bossa rendition of the Beatles’ "When I’m 64.” The strong Brazilian turnout had the show feeling more like a family gathering at times, with fans singing and even whistling along to songs like "Esotérico,” "Aquele Abraço” and "Maracatu Atomico,” which forced Gil to be extra mindful of the non-Portuguese speakers in the audience with his storytelling. To that end, the consummate performer struck the balance perfectly with his "No Woman No Cry” version of "Não Chore Mais,” bouncing back and forth between his own lyrics and the English of the original to the sound of the entire room doing its part to fill in the chorus. As Gil wound down his set with the pensive "Se Eu Quiser Falar Com Deus” and the boisterous "Toda Menina Baiana,” you couldn’t help but feel that even greater than his music was Gil’s ability to pass his uncanny humility and thirst for life — even if only briefly, to all on hand. It’s a sentiment rarely felt from someone of that stature, and one any artist could surely take a lesson from.