INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Classic Pop JULY 2017 - by Wyndham Wallace
THE GIFT: CENTRO CULTURAL DE BELÉM, LISBON
Portugal's finest pop merchants prove they're ready for the world stage, and they've got Brian Eno on their side, too. It's showtime!
A heavy gold curtain rises as Sónia Tavares strolls onto the vast stage of Lisbon's Centro Cultural De Belém. She's alone, accompanied only by backing tracks - a rippling piano line, twitching electronic percussion, soon a swirl of strings - but her resonant voice soars, bewitching this stunning theatre's capacity, 1,450-strong audience.
Tattoos spilling from her bold, black outfit, she's a gripping presence, part punk rock Sally Bowles, part pugnacious Morticia Addams, and her solitary arrival for Loved It All is an acknowledgement that she'll be tonight's focus of attention. But it's also confirmation of something even more fundamental for The Gift: theatre is intrinsic to everything that they do.
Tonight's a special night for the Portuguese band, who, over the past twenty-plus years, have earned a reputation as their homeland's most successful independent group.
There is, consequently, a sense of celebration in the air - albeit a typically humble one - as the band's sharply dressed members shuffle on to the stage a few minutes later, their line-up expanded by three further musicians dressed in colourful, tasselled shirts.
The Gift being The Gift, however, they choose not to milk the wild reception.
Instead, they pace themselves, easing into the set, beneath stained glass windows suspended from the rafters, with the subdued affection of Vitral and the romantic sweep of Hymn To Her, on which Tavares' voice ascends from its renowned, sultry, tremulous depths.
But a crescendoing You Will Be Queen leads to a series of established hits, among them the piano-led Primavera, whose extravagant gestures make it a clear fan favourite, and Classico, which lifts the crowd from their seats as Tavares belts out its sentimental chorus.
Though less familiar, it's the concluding four Altar songs that impress most: Love Without Violins, with main songwriter Nunu Gonçalves bouncing behind his keyboard desk like an excitable receptionist; the gloriously melodramatic Lost & Found; the gospel-flavoured funk of Malifest; and the breathlessly paced Clinic Hope, like a synth-powered Strokes.
A twelve-minute, quasi-medley - the Bowie-does-Bohemian-Rhapsody of Singles - and a joyful Big Fish earn them a second encore, and they go out as theatrically as they arrived, with the muted reflection of What If... For those beyond Portugal's borders, though, the drama is only just beginning.