Monday night’s Seu Jorge show at The State Theatre was many things at once: a riveting concert, an homage to David Bowie and a live introduction to a musician many have been enamored with since 2004, thanks to the Wes Anderson film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

The film was crammed with stars from Bill Murray to Jeff Goldblum, Angelica Huston, Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe. But it also featured the Brazilian actor-singer Seu (pronounced SAY-yoo) Jorge who played what was both the minor role of a character named Pelé dos Santos but appeared throughout the film sitting, often on the ship’s deck, singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese while accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. Five of them are on the film’s soundtrack including “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Life on Mars?” In 2005, Jorge put out an entire album of Bowie covers called “The Life Aquatic Sessions.” But it was only recently that he took the show on the road to play these songs live. Was it worth the wait? Heck yes.

Dozens of people in the audience were donning red beanies, mimicking the characters in the film who wear them as part of their uniform, along with pale blue coveralls. Jorge himself had his beanie on, along with the correct shade of blue and the “Zissou” special edition Adidas sneakers that were issued to him as part of his costume when the film was made. There were also several Bowie T-shirts in the crowd, and that’s what made this show so special; it brought Bowie and Wes Anderson fans together for a show that proved a claim made by Portland’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that “music is the universal language of mankind.” Although many audience members likely knew every song by heart, none of us sung along because they were performed in Portuguese, and it just didn’t make sense to sing along in English. That kept the focus where it belonged: on Jorge.

The set was nautically themed, another nod to the “Zissou” film. There was a captain’s wheel, crates draped in netting and a few other accouterments like battery-powered tea lights. Jorge sat atop a stool on a slightly elevated platform with a small acoustic guitar. All of it was fairly simple because it didn’t need to be anything other than that. The show began with a Jorge staffer, wearing an “unpaid intern” T-shirt, telling us with much delight that “tonight we are joined by two artists, one in flesh and one in spirit.”

Jorge opened his 14-song set with “Ziggy Stardust” while a silhouette of Bowie was projected on a screen behind him. His voice dove down deep on certain words and punched up on others as his guitar hit us with the familiar licks of the iconic tune. It ended with a giant flurry of applause, and Jorge told the story of the phone call he received from Anderson inviting him to be part of the film project.

Jorge had to admit to Anderson that he only knew two Bowie songs, “This is Not America” and “Let’s Dance,” and that he sometimes confused Bowie with Billy Idol. He explained to Anderson that “black guys from Brazil don’t understand rock and roll, but the director was undeterred. Anderson had Jorge listen to “Changes,” and the rest, well, is history. Jorge also regaled us with tales of flying to Italy where the film was shot. Because he only knew the actors by their previous film roles rather than their names, he’d say things like “Hey Ghostbusters! Hey Jurassic Park!”


Jorge then played “Changes” and from there launched into “Oh! You Pretty Things,” both tunes from Bowie’s 1971 album “Hunky Dory.” In fact, most of the show was songs from this and 1972’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Jorge did, however, play the title track to 1969’s “Space Oddity,” and sang Major Tom’s name in English. This song, “Quicksand” and “Lady Stardust” were all highlights of the night.

But perhaps the most emotional moment came when Jorge performed the last track on the “Ziggy” album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” The song, especially the ending, is one of Bowie’s most emotionally intense songs, and Jorge did it justice. It’s also worth noting that he covered “Five Years,” a song about what it’s like to know that the earth is set to self-destruct in five years. It too is fraught with emotional angst and, given the state of the world at present, hit close to home. During the song, scenes from “The Life Aquatic” were interspersed with pictures of Bowie.

Lyrically and vocally speaking, one of Bowie’s finest moments is “Life on Mars?” with the lines “It’s on America’s tortured brow, that Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow/Now the workers have struck again, ’cause Lennon’s on sale again.” Before playing the song, Jorge told us that his father died just three days after Bowie did in 2016, and he dedicated the song to both of them.

One of the surprise moments of the night was when Jorge played a lesser-known Bowie tune from his self-titled 1967 debut album. “When I Live My Dream” is a sweet and whimsical song that you wouldn’t think came from the same man who would be singing about aliens with spiked orange hair just a few years later. Points for Jorge for including that as one of the encores. Jorge’s final song was the Bowie scorcher “Queen Bitch” another selection from the masterpiece “Hunky Dory.” The crowd went wild, and when it ended, Jorge thanked the lighting and sound people profusely and rightfully so; the sound was spectacular, which is not always easy to achieve in that room. Then, he thanked us for being there, and he leaned over the orchestra pit railing as far as he could to shake hands with people in the crowd as Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” blasted through the speakers. Moments of grief for Bowie were palpable throughout the audience a few times, but it was mostly a love fest of his songs, done Samba-style by a shining Brazilian star.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

Twitter: Aimsel

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