The Hollywood Bowl’s successful world music series attempts to assemble cohesive triple bills in which the acts display shared traits despite varied backgrounds. Generally, that common ground is rhythmic. But in this year’s opening session, they booked Carlinhos Brown, the one man who can do it all. He seamlessly connects strains of music from more than half the world’s continents and presents his music in an engaging style that thrills the folks who look for showmanship.
The Brazilian star, who delivered a riveting set at the Bowl eight years ago, is a whirling dervish of a performer, a man in constant motion who paces the stage early on and then heads into the crowd to entertain patrons face to face. He gets so carried away that when an announcer came out to alert him that his set was running over the allotted 65 minutes, he was in the middle of the box seats, preparing to start another tune.
Brown’s music is grounded in Carnaval rhythms; he uses the adventurous work of his former employer Caetano Veloso, a fellow native of the Bahia region, as a jumping-off point. Whereas Veloso fused Brazilian styles with modern rock and Beatles stylings, Brown has taken hip-hop into a polyrhythmic realm. Brown’s latest record, available only as an import, is as expansive as his show, tapping into reggae, rumba, tango and a bit of cumbia — and he does all of it convincingly.
His live show makes clear how organically these varied sounds fit together, even when he is playing with the words to James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” or playing a blazingly fast tune that lifts its guitar riff from the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” His set Sunday included only two songs from the new disc, “A gente ainda nao sonhou,” one of which, “Loved You Right Away,” belongs on urban hits radio right now as it’s a perfect smooth groove of a tune for summer.
Opening band the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars have a tremendous feel-good story. Act was formed in a refugee camp, and once they got their music together, they returned to war-ravaged Sierra Leone to make their record. They play pleasant roots reggae with the occasional spoken-word interlude — toasting, as the Jamaicans would say — and for an early-evening 35 minutes, they were enjoyable if undistinguished.
Bill was headlined by two DJs, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, whose musical collage show was titled “Brain Placement/7 Inches of Fury.”