Sergio Mendes

Review: Sergio Mendes at the Sydney Opera House, 8th April 2018

When it comes to bossa nova music, few are as universally loved as Sergio Mendes.

The seventy-seven year old has shown no signs of slowing down the last few years, and was greeted to a warm reception when he played at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on Sunday night.

It’s always important to recognise a solid warm-up act when you see one, and such was the case when Jeremy Costa and his band came on, taking control of the stage with a half-hour set that oozed with bubbling energy. Presenting an diverse, fresh style of rock and roll, Costa has been making waves all over the country the last few months, and it wasn’t hard to see why as he quickly won over the audience.

It was a warm-up act that surprised many, who were there to watch a bossa nova themed night. By show’s end, Costa’s soulful rock style more than showed that he has a seriously bright future ahead of him.

Mendes arrived soon afterwards and he kept the party going, immediately getting the audience swaying in their seats.

There is something about his fusion of bossa nova with jazz and funk that is instantly hypnotic, and makes you want to dance.

Mendes himself took centre stage, serving almost as a conductor to his nine-piece backing band. Combined, they put on slick performance after slick performance, barely putting a note wrong the whole night.

Highlights included the solo percussion efforts of Marco Dos Santos, who took centre stage later in the show and performed with a seemingly endless amount of percussion instruments, and the outstanding pipes of female singers Gracinha​ Leporace​ and Katie Hampton.

‘One Note Samba’ and ‘Agua​ de Beber’​ added a sense of warmth to the event, yet the only thing that seemed to be missing was a change in dynamics. All the tracks were slickly performed and meticulously led by Mendes, but as the show dragged on, the performances began to feel excessively glossy and similar to each other.

Not that the crowd seemed to mind, lapping up every moment of funky bliss.

Mendes did change things up later in the setlist with a smooth rendition of Paul McCartney‘s ‘The Fool on the Hill’, which brought out a bit more versatility from him and the band.

The best was saved for the climax, as Mendes performed his classic 1966 cover hit ‘Mas Que Nada,’ getting the crowd up from their seats, and sending them home singing.

For the casual fan, this show would have been more difficult to enjoy, with Mendes’ arrangements of his biggest hits often mistaking blandness for bliss. But even then, the charm and performance of the man himself was hard to resist.

What the show was focused on was serving as a love letter to many of Sergio’s most devout fans, who went away from the event getting exactly what they asked for.

And really, that was what made the night. From his brilliant warm-up act in Jeremy Costa to Sergio’s band and performance, it was a night of substance, with the music bringing the style.

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