Bebel Gilberto Rusty in Return to the Stage

Bebel Gilberto’s Myspace page has a background of waves in black and white. It’s appropriate considering the sonic timbre of the voice that belongs to the daughter of Brazilian bossa nova legend Joao Gilberto. It is a swoon-inducing, cosmically breathy thing that moves like water over smooth river stones.

It’s not everyday a chanteuse of Gilberto’s caliber comes through Miami as she did Saturday when she played the performing arts center downtown. Maybe the less-than-capacity crowd should have been more enthusiastic.

Or maybe not.

From audio glitches to long pauses between songs and occasional lyric lapses, Gilberto and her electronica-inflected bossa nova band sounded as if they were rehearsing much of the evening.

Less than two months ago, shortly before she was to launch her 2007 tour, Gilberto broke her ankle, preventing her from walking and making it difficult to practice with the band. In fact, Gilberto announced Saturday, it was her first time on stage without her leg cast.

Understandably, she appeared a bit wobbly and spent much of the concert sitting on an oversized white chair. At one point, as if overcome by the languor of her own voice, she laid on her back as though going to sleep.

Much of the audience seemed asleep too. Gilberto’s music is, at its best, an intimate embrace made for nightclubs and cozy venues. She seemed somewhat lost in the performing arts center’s cavernous and antiseptic-feeling confines.

While Gilberto’s experimentation with traditional Brazilian forms has proven an often winning formula (she has collaborated with everyone from David Byrne to George Michael), she had better luck Saturday with standards such as “So Nice” and “Mais Feliz.” Songs such as “Close To You” and “Bring Back the Love” from her new album “Momento” sounded rough. Older songs, usually sung in Portuguese, from albums such as “Tanto Tempo” and “Bebel Gilberto” drew more applause.

In a Reuters article, Gilberto said that she used Skype to rehearse with the band during her ankle’s recuperation.

If only the computer hookup had been better. -- Rob Jordan

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