Rodrigo Amarante Sends Them Home Happy on Saturday Night

July 27th, 2015

Rodrigo Amarante – Rough Trade NYC – July 25, 2015


Some languages beautifully translate into song, and Portuguese is definitely one of them—from the bossa nova sway to the melancholic fado. Of course, most folks are familiar with the João Gilberto classic, “The Girl from Ipanema,” and even contemporary artists like Devendra Banhart have sung folk songs in this romance language. On Brazilian Rodrigo Amarante’s first solo album, Cavalo, Banhart took second fiddle providing guest vocals. But it’s easy to see why a bigger name in the American-music vernacular would take the supporting role. Amarante has had an eclectic career, first leading Los Hermanos in his homeland before forming the indie three-piece Little Joy with the Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti and Binki Shapiro, in addition to his acclaimed solo work. The trio was my first introduction to Amarante, leaving me a fan ever since, so when he rolled into Brooklyn’s Rough Trade NYC on Saturday night, I was there no questions asked.

“You came!” exclaimed Amarante, his arms raised in triumph, as he took the stage. It was the final performance on his tour in which he would play his solo album in its entirety. The largely Brazilian crowd sang along from the beginning, with the calming nah nah nahs in “Nada Em Vão.” When he moved on to the French song “Mon Nom,” Amarante thanked the audience with a “merci” upon its completion. For this non- Portuguese speaker, the evening felt like being transported to a small club in São Paulo. The humming intro of “Tardei” quickly coaxed a choral repetition like waves crashing against a beach. A gaggle of gals behind me harmonized to the fado-esque “Irene,” and then Amarante broke the take-us-on-a-trip spell by covering Angel Olsen’s “Unfucktheworld,” about which he confessed his great admiration for her song-writing talents.

The amiable artist offered a story about his numerous interactions with U.S. customs while tuning his white guitar. After several conversations about the reason for his travels to America as a musician, Amarante has concluded the password for the States is jazz. It’s the perfect fast pass through the border after a 10-plus hour flight. The set continued with more from his debut album, including the percussion-heavy “Maná” and the plaintive “The Ribbon.” And the encore had fans samba-ing to a Los Hermanos favorite, which incited a stream of claps, before Amarante sent fans, this one especially, happily home to bed with the Little Joy lullaby “Evaporar.” —Sharlene Chiu