If you haven’t seen Portugal’s latest First Lady of Fado in concert, then you really have missed one of the major treats that global music culture has to offer. Elegant and alluring, Mariza brings to life already rich and dramatic songs with a stage craft integral to this most expressive of genres. I guess the next best thing is to possess a DVD of one of her engaging performances, which is possibly why she is already on her second release in this format. Following on from Mariza in London, filmed in the intimate surroundings of the Union Chapel in Islington in 2002, comes a recording at the opposite end of the audience-size spectrum.
Performed in front of 25,000 fans last year in the Torre De Belem in the Mozambique-born singer’s home city of Lisbon, the concert has the air of a victorious homecoming. Sixteen of the songs, all performed with the Sinfonietta de Lisboa conducted by Jaques Morelenbaum, have also been released on this CD, and anybody who has heard Mariza’s three studio albums will know that she has a voice to match the outward appearance — confident, passionate and dramatic.
That voice is at its deep and resonant best here, adding a theatricality to the maudlin string arrangement on Desejos Vaos and the show-stopping Primavera, and those strings stay discreetly unobtrusive on the jaunty Maria Lisboa and Recusa. The string section is a new addition to the standard triumvirate of instruments — bass, guitar and guitarra Portuguesa — on the older songs, and it works very well. But the real revelation is that the tracks from Transparente — the album in which Mariza first experimented with extra orchestration — are the ones that really benefit in the live setting. Ha Palavras Que Nos Beijam in particular is rescued from its slightly saccharine album treatment.
However, with no new songs being showcased, if you are a connoisseur of this extraordinarily talented young woman you are advised to go straight to the DVD to get the full live treatment. But if you are new to Mariza’s music, what better way to introduce yourself than to treat this CD as a greatest hits with strings attached?