Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Tom Ze shines in Brussels

When we asked our hotelier in Brussels the best way to get to the Tom Zé concert last Saturday, he warned us of the “dangerous” area the concert was located in. Concerned, we reluctantly made our way there. We needn't have been; it was the equivalent of Dalston and I don’t think the hotel guy – who was very posh – ever ventured out of his Notting Hill equivalent. More shocking was the entertainment itself.
Tom Zé is 75 years old but had the energy of a 10 year old boy. He ran on stage wearing a skirt and introduced each band member with two clenched fists, which he shook enthusiastically above his head – a gesture mimicked by his entourage. The cross-dressing theme (whether deliberate or not) continued when he put on a lacy, pink thong over his trousers and, later, on his head. There was a reason for this, Tom Zé claimed, as several of his songs were about women…

Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, he certainly knows how to entertain a crowd and despite – or in some cases because of – his poor English, and even worse French, he managed to get everyone on side, laughing at his often incomprehensible jokes and singing along to his songs. He and the band managed to write a song from scratch after he picked up the Brussels version of the Yellow Pages and selected random paragraphs from it. The result was a song called “Numéro du Jacques” – probably my favourite of the night.
Several of his songs were politically-influenced but it wasn’t always easy to decode them; he certainly didn’t have much love for England and the US, referring to the “dirty wars” the two countries had been involved in.
That inherent pride in being Brazilian also shone through. One of his songs, Made in Brasil, was inspired by the first time he saw the words “made in Brazil” written on a product. As a child, he said he’d been used to seeing “made in Italy” on his dinner plates and “made in England” on toilet bowls (he made a joke here about shitting on England…).
I thought that Tom Zé’s music wouldn’t be the sort that I’d listen to at home, but I can’t seem to get Numéro du Jacques out of head. And I like that.

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