The "barefoot diva" is back on stage after a spell of bad health. Cape Verde's 68-year-old songstress Cesaria Evora, famous known for singing shoeless, performed at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv last Thursday as part of her comeback tour, marking her sixth concert in the country. Evora opened the night with songs from her new album Nha Sentimento (My Feelings), released last month after a long break following a stroke she suffered in March 2008.
The deep affection local audiences have formed for Evora and her mesmerizingly deep and emotion-steeped voice took over the auditorium as the crowd showered the diva with applause and admiration. But as much as her songs express strong emotions and Brazilian rhythm, Evora still gave a rather stale and static performance, singing her songs without connecting or talking with the audience - much to the dismay of the cheerful Israeli crowd. In previous concerts such as the last one in Ra'anana, Evora brought spicy moments into the show, including taking an onstage cigarette break mid-set.
If Evora did not speak or communicate with the audience and add dance moves at Thursday's performance, her nine-piece band was swinging along. Throughout the concert, Evora's saxophonist and her violinist were the most animated of the bunch by far, swinging to the left and to the right, joining in with salsa steps and dancing with their instruments.
After the intermission, Evora warmed up, somehow moving her hips briefly, and even smiled a little as she delighted the audience with well-known hits such as "Sodade." The show ended with an encore of three songs and was wrapped up with a reprise of "Africa Nossa" - an upbeat song about how people of African origin from around the world must unite to create a better world - that brought the crowd to their feet. Part of the audience may have felt some disappointment with Evora's performance, but then she is not a "performer" per se. She does not dance, throw her hands up in the air, or even smile much at the audience, but clearly her vocal eloquence, which cuts straight to the heart of the matter, still holds an inescapable fascination for the listener. After all, this is what she does.