Rodrigo Amarante and Jenny O.
Bootleg Theatre
June 18, 2014

Rodrigo Amarante is a former member of Brazilian alternative group Los Hermanos and throwback indie rockers Little Joy. Last night at the Bootleg marked the kickoff of the Rio de Janerian singer-songwriter's U.S. tour. 

While more than half of the songs on Amarante's debut album, Cavalo (released last month), are in Portuguese, the majority of the audience was still able to sing along. It was a testament to both their dedication and the cross-cultural accessibility of his music. 

Jenny O.; Credit: Photo by Artemis Thomas-Hansard

Jenny O.; Credit: Photo by Artemis Thomas-Hansard

Opening for Amarante was Jenny O., who was recently featured in our “10 Best Young L.A. Singer-Songwriters” list.

Jenny O.'s career has been smoldering since the release of her EP Home in 2010. Tracks from the five song EP were used in ad campaigns for Subaru, Toyota, Roxy and Target, and for the television series True Blood. After touring the U.S. with Ben Harper, Leon Russell, and Father John Misty, the songstress released her debut album Automechanic in February 2013.

Now 30, Jenny O. sings with a rasp that sounds rooted in the 1960s and '70s. With a vocal style that lands somewhere between Patti Smith and Janis Joplin, she performed the 1968 Bee Gee's hit, “I Started a Joke.” Simultaneously demure and wise, Jenny O. is intriguing. 

Rodrigo Amarante; Credit: Photo by Artemis Thomas-Hansard

Rodrigo Amarante; Credit: Photo by Artemis Thomas-Hansard

As soon as Amarante hit the stage, his following was obvious. There were shouts of “Los Hermanos,” “Little Joy,” and “Orquestra Imperial” – his 2002 Brazilian big band specializing in gafiera samba. Everyone tried their best to roll their Rs for Rrrrrrrrodrigo.

He performed the majority of Cavalo, a record that oscillates between languages – Portugeuse, English, and French – dance music, and depression. “Maná,” a Portuguese-sung samba with a chirping woodwind ensemble and cowbells, was balanced by the lulling “Fall Asleep,” an English song Amarante wrote as “an alternative to Xanax.”

Cavalo has a muffled quality to it; Amarante's piano echoes as if it's being played underwater, and the record crackles like a vinyl disc being played beneath layers of dust. Amarante nonetheless made it all translate to a live setting.

As his encore, Amarante returned with a gift for fans of Little Joy, performing “Evaporar,” the closing track to the band's 2008 self-titled album. It was an expected surprise and, for many, a wish fulfilled.

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