Like everyone, I’ve watched the unfolding events in the Middle East with shock and horror. It’s difficult to know what to say without sounding trite, but just because I’m not writing about it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, and especially those caught up in such a desperate situation.

Possibly with all the news headlines, it hasn’t been the best time to be reading a book about the history of empires.

From the Mongols to the Aztecs to the Ottomans to, well pretty anyone who ran had an empire, history is full of unspeakable episodes. Added to all this cheeriness has been a family death, and navigating thoughts and feelings through that.

But in the midst of all this, a remarkable ray of sunshine. Last week, I had the good fortune to go to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Brazilian music legend Gilberto Gil.

Gil is not a household name in the UK but in South America he is an icon of Lennon or Dylanesque proportions.

In the 1960s, he was one of the founders of Tropicalia, a fusing of traditional Latin music with psychedelia and sixties sounds.

One of the leaders of the country’s counterculture, he was arrested and imprisoned by the ruling military regime.

From here he moved to London for several years and that link between politics and music has continued: under President Lula, that relationship went full circle, with Gil spending five years as Minister of Culture.

Now 81, he is on a farewell international tour, with last week’s performance billed as his farewell London appearance.

I’ve been lucky to see some amazing acts at the Albert Hall over the years (Springsteen, Dylan, Clapton). Probably the most rapturous crowd was going to see Cream when they reformed in 2005. But the audience reaction to Gilberto Gil was something else.

The concert hall, packed with a predominantly expat crowd, resonated with a warmth and affection for a music star I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard before. There was a connection between artist and audience it was hard not to be touched by. 

The Times’ review of the concert described it as a ‘life-affirming party’ and I’d second that. From the communal singing on the quieter songs to the security guard down the front trying not to dance to the upbeat numbers (then giving up and giving in to the music) it was a moment of rare undiluted positivity.

Back out in the real world, my phone pinged with the latest events from Israel, and rain poured down all the way back to the Tube station. But the love I’d just witnessed, the reminder of the way great music moves you, lingered on.