It was nearly impossible for Seu Jorge to keep still during his sold-out concert at the El Rey on Saturday night. He bounded onstage, shimmied and wiggled while he sang (and shook his impressive shock of dreadlocked hair when he didn’t) and, after the encore, remained onstage with his backing musicians, joyously bouncing up and down with them.
Jorge, whom most American auds know from his perf as Pele de Santos, the David Bowie-crooning shipmate in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” appears ready to show he is more than a novelty act.
Like his most recent album, “Cru” (Wrass), the music heard at the El Rey is built on rhythm. With up to three percussionists and a bassist backing Jorge’s guitar and vocals, the music is spacious, breezy and fleet-footed.
Sambas such as “Tive Razao” have circular acoustic guitar riffs that appeal to fans of Dave Matthews and other jam bands (Jorge and his band played the Bonnaroo music fest immediately before this L.A. date), but the rhythms are supple and infectious.
With his loping phrases, which occasionally snap into a twisty hip-hop flow, and supple voice that can move from a croaking bass to a keening falsetto, the songs feel like street-level views of the favela, the Brazilian slums where Jorge grew up.
A natural performer, he teases the aud, leading the aud in Portuguese sing-along and breaking down tunes such as “Caroline” to dramatic effect.
After some 45 minutes, Jorge gives up the stage to his percussionists, who wow the crowd with their ebullient work on hand drums (the young trio end each number by high-fiving each other).
He returns for a short solo set of his Bowie translations; pulled out of Anderson’s brittle whimsy, they’re much improved, with “Rebel, Rebel” coming off as a gentle love ballad.