NZ Arts Festival 2008, Town Hall
March 12 | Reviewed by Tim G

Clube Do Balanço are a band who are credited with bringing Samba back to a world stage, they are often credited with bringing a traditional form of music to the masses in a way that is accessible and alluring. In their New Zealand International Arts Festival performance, they proved that they have the ability to move and infect the crowd with a Samba vibe.

At first it seemed like they would have to labour pretty hard to get the crowd’s attention. It was a sold out show and anticipation seemed high. Yet, when the band wandered out onto stage in a pretty low-key fashion, and the crowd seemed pretty nonchalant as they launched into their first few songs. It was quite irritating that the low hum of conversation detracted from the band’s opening tunes. Sound-wise, it was a bit of a mash at first; the keyboards were almost unrecognisable as the bass bounded over the top of everything else.

This soon corrected itself as the band started to hit their stride and slowly win over the crowd. The passion and energy displayed by the band slowly started to spread as the initially blasé crowd couldn’t help but be pulled in. They’re such an eclectic bunch who represents Brazil’s ethnic diversity with both Hispanic and African Brazilian members as well as a mix of ages. Bandleader Marco Matolli heaped praise on the crowd whilst the band sambaed away behind him; they all looked so enthusiastic that avoiding the vibe was impossible. The man known as Bocão was a percussionist who looked like an early nineties Flavour Flav, complete with flattop and a big white grin. After around four songs, Tereza Gama entered, the group’s Diva. She belted put Samba classics and swooned along with Matolli through some slower numbers. A particular highlight was the Brazil 66 classic ‘Mas que nada’.

The introduction of Samba Dancers onstage was a cool little touch that enhanced the Carnival spirit of the band. The previously unengaged crowd were now engrossed. Old men in business shirts were even dancing arkwardly. Bocão then came out form behind his percussion kit and led a ‘Samba School’ samba drum ensemble made up of the band. The crowd were also invited to clap along which they did with gusto; it was probably the most energetic part of the night from both band and crowd.

After almost two hours the band retired. They had lived up the reputation of Samba and persuaded the crowd to join the festivities.