Possessing a deep voice that’s certainly heaven-sent, Waldemar Bastos used his L.A. debut to emphasize the rhythmic dance music of his native land (Angola) over the wrenching balladry of his adopted home (Lisbon). Bastos adds a third destination to his worldly mix — the gentle sway of coastal Brazil — and produces an intoxicating hybrid that falls easy on the ears and hips. At 44, Bastos possesses the charisma, musical instincts and voice to conquer territory blazed by Milton Nascimento.
Bastos sings in Portuguese — Angola was a Portuguese territory until 1975 — and plays the classical guitar, with the bass lines curiously accented. The softness of his accompaniment peeks out from, rather than supports, the jubilant backing of electric guitar, congas, drums and bass; as well as the textures marry, they come together distinctly, with subtle differences and balance. It keeps the ears constantly engrossed.
Regardless of the language, the audience was focused with the intermingling of laughter, chatter and silence directly related to the stage activity.
Monday’s show was the end of an 11-date tour in support of “Pretaluz” (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.), Bastos’ first album recorded in the U.S. and his fourth overall. Whereas better than half the album is devoted to the Portuguese fado, the almost always mournful and sparsely accompanied ballad style that portrays a state of the soul, Bastos limited the number of slow songs in the 90-minute concert.
When he did turn to the ballad, though, his voice grew in timbre and expressiveness, its volume sufficient for him to step away from the microphone and lead the audience in sing-alongs, most impressively on “Rainha Ginga.” Its chorus of “Laiaaia aia aiale,” sung softly by the impressive crowd, lent a bank of truthfulness to Bastos’ lyrics, which translate to “I have no poem to sing to you/I only have the rhythm to give to you.”