Belle & Sebastian/Grandaddy/ Macy Gray/Roni Size : Rio Free Jazz Festival

B&S, Grandaddy, Macy Gray, Roni Size all rocking for free in Brazil...


Rio’s warm weather seems to have melted all of Belle & Sebastian’s cool. The band, known for their distant looks and unattainable image, give a fantastic performance when closing the first night of the Free Jazz Festival in Rio.

Isobel Campbell – who stayed at home for fear of flying after the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks on September 11 – misses what is likely to be considered one of the band’s pivotal live performances in years to come.

Stuart Murdoch and his pals never normally look this happy, jumping around and dancing frantically. And the crowd certainly approve, as the sold-out venue cheer almost non-stop.

B&S perform no less than 17 songs, including two Brazilian hits: ‘Baby’ by Caetano Veloso and ‘Minha Menina’ by Jorge Benjor – both made famous by Brazilian cult band Os Mutantes. During the performance of the latter (sung by guitarist Stevie Jackson), members of the crowd are invited to join in the fun onstage. So much for cool…


The Scots also, of course, bash out hearty renditions of their own classics – the highlights including ‘I Fought In A War’, ‘Me And The Major’, ‘Don’t Leave The Light On, Baby’, ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ and ‘Legal Man’.

B&S’s performance is a great closing to a lovely evening out, which had begun with the beautiful Grandaddy. The Americans’ set is drawn largely from their 2000 classic ‘The Sophtware Slump’. Even though most of the crowd are still warming up, they manage to make everyone happy enough by playing ‘Hewlett’s Daughter’ and ‘The Crystal Lake’, the two highlights of their performance.

Grandaddy are followed by Sigur Ros. Still quite unknown in Brazil, they give a quiet, but powerful, performance and sweep everyone off their feet. Tellingly, they are interrupted at least twice by the crowd cheering.


Friday evening is traditionally drum ‘n’ bass night in Rio. So, instead of going to D&B parties, such as Febre (Fever, in English), hosted by local DJs Calbuque and Marcelinho da Luacariocas, the hardcore fans are more than happy to enjoy Roni Size’s Reprazent live at the Free Jazz Festival.

They come ready to have fun – and very few are disappointed. The Bristol act are certainly up for it. Out of the whole crew, singer Onalee is the only one who has never been to Brazil before. Dynamite even shows off a few Portuguese phrases he’s learned, such as “Ola, tudo bem?” (Hi, how are you doing?) and “Obrigado” (Thank you), while Roni Size models a ‘Brazil’ T-shirt. The audience appreciate the effort and dance frantically for the duration of this one and a half-hour set.

Reprazent are followed by Aphex Twin, who spends most of his performance hidden behind a table, but he doesn’t manage to captivate the audience that much. His apocalyptic sound and the almost deafening electronic beats don’t cut it with the Brazilian crowd.

Most of the audience is expecting to hear hits such as ‘Come To Daddy’ and ‘Windowlicker’, but that never happens. Slowly, but surely, the Main Stage empties and most of the Roni Size fans head to the Cream Stage, where DJ Patife is performing.


It all began as a mellow night all right, but it ends on a high note. The first attraction is a performance by The Temptations. The Las Vegas-style nostalgia fest is well received by the over 30’s audience. Wearing white suits and performing their well-rehearsed routines, they make everyone sing along, and even organised a karaoke session with members of the audience during the classic ‘My Girl’. Everyone claps along and seems happy enough.

But the main attraction of the on the Main Stage is Macy Gray. And she’s a bit of a disappointment, presenting one cliche after another. For starters, she appears onstage wearing a Brazilian Football team T-Shirt (nine out of ten international attractions that come over here do that). Later on, she changes the T-shirt for another one that reads ‘War is not the answer’. She kicks off with ‘Relating To A Psychopath’ and throws herself to the floor right there and then. Maybe a bit too soon.

In between songs she never gets tired of saying how everyone there is “so beautiful” and how she came over all the way from Los Angeles just to see the audience’s “beautiful faces” and hear “their beautiful voices”. Love is in the air for Macy.

The highlights are undoubtedly ‘Sweet Baby’ and ‘I Try’ (her two biggest hits in Brazil), though it seems that, deep down, she doesn’t try hard enough.

Whoever manages to stay awake until 4:30 am has a much better time with Fatboy Slim at the Cream Stage. The DJ was due to come to the festival last year, but didn’t make it. So he looks ecstatic to be in Rio at last. Over 2,000 people dance to Norman Cook’s big beats until Sunday morning. The highlight is when he plays singer Elis Regina’s ‘Cai Dentro’ with a house beat. A great way to close.

Valeria Rossi