(photo credit: PR)
One of the most evocative recurring themes of the 2004 Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic According to Steve Zissou was the sight and sounds of Brazilian singer and actor Seu Jorge strumming his guitar on the deck of a ship, reinterpreting the songs of David Bowie in Portuguese. The film starred a sardonic Bill Murray as an eccentric, Jacques Cousteaulike ocean explorer, with Jorge playing a musical member of his crew.
The 46-year-old Rio de Janeiro native broke out internationally in 2002 with his role as Knockout Ned in the Oscarnominated film City of God, but it was The Life Aquatic that introduced Jorge’s musical acumen to a wide audience.
However, it took more than a decade for the Grammy-nominated musician to take the heartfelt acoustic covers of the late Bowie on tour. Better late than never, as “The Life Aquatic – A Tribute to David Bowie” has received unanimous accolades since Jorge began touring last year with a stage set that features boat sails functioning as screens that display images of the sea.
“Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with,” Bowie himself said after hearing Jorge’s plaintive interpretations of classics like “Life on Mars,” “Changes” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.”
Ironically, when Jorge was first approached to perform in Anderson’s film, he was only vaguely aware of Bowie and admitted to confusing him with Billy Idol. Speaking between songs to a New York audience last year, Jorge said he only knew Bowie’s song “Let’s Dance,” so the filmmakers provided him with copies of all of Bowie’s most well-known songs.
A Billboard magazine review of a recent show in New York touted Jorge’s interpretive abilities: “‘Life on Mars’ was tender and vulnerable, while ‘Ziggy Stardust’ throbbed with yearning — a rebel yell comprehensible in any language. For ‘Suffragette City,’ Jorge transformed the swagger of Bowie’s glam-rock original into something moodier, almost eerie.”
Jorge talked emotionally in his previous shows about the effect of Bowie’s shocking death in 2016 and how he found solace hearing that his Bowie covers had provided comfort to others. For someone who arrived relatively late to the Bowie canon, Jorge has made up for lost time in reaching a “new level of beauty.”
He’ll be bringing his show to Tel Aviv on May 22 at the Performing Arts Center.