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Music review Wow-factor from wonderful wizard of Os Mutantes and crew

Os Mutantes
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

SERGIO DIAS has bronchitis, the result of a flu jab before flying to Britain with Os Mutantes, the band he formed with his older brother and a girlfriend in the 1960s.

He waves it away. “I’ve been sick before,” he tells the audience in Leeds. “Let’s have some fun.”

Part of the short-lived Brazilian Tropicalia movement, Os Mutantes was caught up in a musical crossfire during the revolutionary year of 1968. Opposed to Brazil’s right-wing military leadership, who they criticised, they also drew flak from left-wing radicals who despised the group’s fusion of fuzz-tone guitars and bossa nova.

Fifty years on, Os Mutantes are championed as true originals by artists such as Beck, The Flaming Lips and David Byrne, whose compilation of early recordings introduced the group to a new generation of fans.

Dias, clearly enjoying himself in between bouts of wrestling with a hacking cough, sports his trademark black cape with slicked back shoulder-length grey hair. He looks like a magician — the Wizard of Os Mutantes perhaps?

He grins as he introduces the band as his “family.” A seasoned and battle-hardened unit, they attack the new material — all strange time-signatures, shards of electric guitar and pulsing angular bass runs — with intuitive venom. Time and Space is proggy, Fool Metal Jack a Gang of Four out-take and Technicolor a glorious space voyage.

Hybrid experimentation, as you'd expect from their name, is what Os Mutantes does best and the band’s signature hits are turned inside out. Domingo No Parque smashes together musique concrete and Motown-style call-and-response, Ah Mina Menina is reconstituted as a delirious racket, while a ferociously fuzzed out Bat Macumba demonstrates the band’s knack for garage-rock primitivism.

Best of all is Panis et Circenses, which highlights the wonderful vocal interplay between singer Esmeria Bulgari and multi-instrumentalist Carly Bryant and is shot through with a furiously coruscating guitar from Dias, who for the 90 minutes the band are on stage defies all medical advice.

The performance unleashes a Latin Carnival temperament in the audience slightly at odds with the gruff northern setting. Inspired and united for one night, some people even appear to be singing along in Portuguese. Os Mutantes is the soundtrack to the revolution. Play it loud.

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