Gilberto Gil review – farewell London concert for a joyful musical great

Royal Albert Hall, London
At 81, Gil says goodbye to the city that was once his home in political exile, playing a set that hops deftly between bossa nova, tropicália, reggae and funk

Political prisoner, exiled psych-rock idol, reggae pioneer, cabinet minister, reality TV star … the English-speaking world really doesn’t have an equivalent of the Brazilian polymath Gilberto Gil. Aged 81, he has declared that this show is his “farewell to London”, a place he’s played regularly, and where he lived, in political exile, between 1969 and 1972. Where Gil’s London dates in July 2022 were in the run-up to a fraught Brazilian election, tonight the mood is much more celebratory, with a four-piece band comprising two of his children and two grandchildren.

Such is the breadth of his canon over the last 60 years that Gil only repeats six songs from last year. The Brazilian expats who make up most of the audience go mad for his take on reggae, a genre Gil was introduced to in early 70s London, “eating Jamaican food at the Mangrove”. He enjoys mangling it with Brazilian music – he skanks through The Girl From Ipanema with his granddaughter Flor in the Astrud Gilberto role, plays a bossa version of No Woman No Cry, while Esoterico, a ballad he wrote for Gal Costa in 1976, is interpolated with Bob Marley’s Jamming.

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