Koko was packed to the rafters with an impatient Brazilian crowd, keen to get past the DJ and onto the fabulous Vanessa da Mata, who burst onto the stage with such vibrancy and life that the already excited venue cranked up to notches rarely seen outside of Brazil
If her voice was a little hoarse at first and the sound engineer kept her inexplicably low in the mix throughout, it hardly mattered at all as the crowd sang her songs back to her with such passion and force that for a while it was clear that Vanessa was genuinely overwhelmed with this reception. There was a mix of reggae, MPB, samba and all the rest but what sets Vanessa apart is her glowing vibrancy as a person and a knack for writing brilliant songs with great, great hooks.
Her current number one song, the perfect duet with Ben Harper ‘Boa Sorte’ was delivered with the disembodied Ben courtesy of a DAT tape but by god she made that song come alive anyway. And while she didn’t have Ben Harper, or the Sly and Robbie team that helped make her new album so great, she did have a fantastic band, not big but perfectly formed keys, guitar, bass and drums with virtuoso turns from all.
Her own songs, and it is quite a catalogue, were augmented with a show stopping Carnivalesque version of Chico Buarque’s ‘Bicharia’, a spot of classic samba and one from Caetano Veloso.
No doubt the next time she is here it will be at one of the national venues, at double the price and with a great deal less dancing and atmosphere, but if you weren’t there tonight you only had yourself to blame.