Arts Desk

Gilberto Gil at Lisner: Expect to Hear Reggae Covers (Oh, and Forró, Too)

Brazilian singer/guitarist Gilberto Gil may be 70, but he is not content on tour to simply recreate his lilting, tuneful hits.

Two years ago, the Tropicália pioneer—and Brazil's former minister of culture—brought a cello player and a rearranged catalog to Lisner. Over the years, he has dabbled in reggae, folk, and jazz. This year he is accompanied by an accordion player and a fiddler for his North American “For All” tour.

As a child growing up in Brazil’s Northeastern Bahia region, Gil began listening to forró, the danceable, accordion- and violin-led rural genre identified with musician Luiz Gonzaga. “I lived in a very small village in the interior of the state of Bahia where this music was very popular on the radio,” Gil says via email. “Gonzaga was my first idol. The first show I saw in my life was his in Salvador as soon as I moved there to go to secondary school.”

Gil began playing accordion at age 8, and throughout his career recorded some songs in homage to Gonzaga. In 2010 he recorded Fe Na Festa, an album that included a number of forró songs. Now Gil is bringing the tour he did elsewhere for that album to North America.

On Fe Na Festa, Gil blends his trademark catchy melodies with fast-tempo Brazilian country sounds. It's not an album of covers; several of the tunes are originals. Throughout, he shows off his vocal range in high-pitched yelps and low-pitched stylings, as well as his trademark croon. On the tour, which comes to the Lisner Auditorium tomorrow, Gil is bringing the band he used for the 2010 jaunt; it's an outfit that includes his longtime guitarist and rhythm section.

While this innovative performer plans to emphasize his unique Bahian hoedown numbers, he won’t completely neglect the wishes of his devoted fanbase. Tomorrow, expect to hear some of his best-loved songs and a few choice reggae covers, too.

Gilberto Gil performs at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $35-$75.

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