About 12,000 Hollywood Bowl patrons were treated to a sound check instead of a concert Wednesday night, and it was not a very good one at that. Headliner Joao Gilberto stopped his show after about 20 minutes of barely audible music and spent the rest of his 45 minutes onstage interrupting songs with complaints in Portuguese directed at three sound technicians — a very uncomfortable sight.
Much was being made of the fact that Wednesday marked Gilberto’s first return to the Bowl since 1964, the year “The Girl From Ipanema” was a top 10 hit. (Gilberto helped usher in the bossa nova and samba movements as the key interpreter of Antonio Carlos Jobim.)
But after just three songs, one of which was a magical reading of Jobim’s “Wave,” it was apparent the Bowl was the absolute worst venue possible for Gilberto, who accompanies himself solely on a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and requires an intimate setting.
Bizarrely, after he pleaded for different mixes in his monitors and placement of microphones and apparently got what he wanted, the sound of his voice that was projected to the Bowl was distorted by the rattling of the metal speakers. And still it wasn’t loud enough to wake the neighbors.
As his discomfort grew, the perfs became hurried or else sagged, as he never quite found the right rhythm in his short and sultry songs; his “Ipanema” was a welcome relief, yet it wasn’t enough to transport the aud away from the messiness that came before. He was probably even further upset by the stream of people leaving the expensive box seats as if they had to catch a train.
Opener Luciana Souza, backed by guitarist Romero Lubambo, started the show with sunny interpretations of modern Brazilian music. Set included the lovely ballad “Amanha,” a hit song her parents wrote in the mid-’60s, and the “Baiao Meddley” that gets her recent “Brazilian Duos” album off to a lightning quick start.
Her perf, too, was dwarfed by the Bowl, yet she exhibited a professional side by keeping to herself whatever misgivings she may have had about the accommodations.