Daniela Mercury | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Daniela Mercury

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Daniela Mercury became a superstar in Brazil by making the deep Afro-Brazilian rhythms of her native Bahia appealing to a broad audience, layering her powerful voice and frothy pop melodies over the thundering beats. (Her good looks and dance skills didn't hurt either.) Mercury's music, called axe (pronounced ah-shay), is an exuberant mishmash of samba, reggae, frevo, and other Caribbean styles, but its foundation is the sound of blocos afros--the drum crews that dominate Carnaval parades. In the late 90s she drew on talents like Lenine, Carlinhos Brown, and Caetano Veloso to bring increasingly sophisticated melodies to her music, but she's a pop star first, and she's chosen to integrate club rhythms on her last few records. That shift has done some damage; though Lenine, Brown, and Gilberto Gil contribute tunes and vocal cameos to her latest album, Carnaval Electronico (BMG Brasil), Mercury's primary collaborators are club DJs and producers who infuse the Bahian grooves with throbbing house and disco rhythms--or, in the case of a song like "Quero Ver o Mundo Sambar," obliterate them. At best the live instrumentation and programmed beats complement one another, whether on the samba ballad "Tonga de Moronga do Kabulete" or on "Que Basque e Esse?," where jackhammer beats battle sourly honking horns. But such distinctions don't matter quite so much onstage, where all subtlety goes out the window. Sun 10/23, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $26. All ages.

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