Legião Urbana (Portuguese for Urban Legion) were a Brazilian rock band formed in 1982 in Brasília, Distrito Federal. The band primarily consisted of Renato Russo (vocals), Dado Villa-Lobos (guitar) and Marcelo Bonfá (drums). In its earlier days, Legião Urbana also had a bassist, Renato Rocha, but he would leave the band due to creative divergences.
While Legião Urbana disbanded officially in 1997, after frontman Renato Russo's death, it is to this day one of the most famous Brazilian rock bands, alongside Os Paralamas do Sucesso, Titãs and Barão Vermelho.
Renato Russo (born Renato Manfredini, Jr.) created Legião Urbana in 1982, in Brasília, after his short presence in an earlier band named Aborto Elétrico ("Electric Abortion"). Aborto Elétrico ceased to exist due to repeated disagreements between Russo and brothers Flavio and Fê Lemos. After Aborto Elétrico split and Russo created Legião Urbana, the two brothers would also go on to form another very popular Brazilian rock band, Capital Inicial.
Legião Urbana was initially formed by Renato Russo, Marcelo Bonfá (drums), Eduardo Paraná (guitars) and Paulo Paulista (keyboards), but Paraná and Paulista would quickly leave the band.
Dado Villa-Lobos replaced Paraná as the guitarist. In the beginning of 1985, Renato Rocha joined the group as the bass player, after Renato Russo couldn't play any instrument because of a suicide attempt that injured his wrist. Renato Russo would then focus on the vocals.
Many elements helped shape the identity of Legião Urbana. Consciously or not, Renato Russo was heavily influenced by The Smiths and U2, particularly The Smiths lead singer Morrissey, with his extremely personal lyrics and idiosyncratic on-stage performance. He was also influenced by Joy Division's Ian Curtis.
Thematically, Russo and the other members were also influenced by literature, especially that of Portuguese poet Luís de Camões, whose poetry is featured in more than one of the band's songs.
Legião Urbana's self-titled first album was recorded and released in 1985. The album included the hits "Será" ("I Wonder"), "Ainda É Cedo" ("It's Still Early") and "Geração Coca-Cola" ("Coca-Cola Generation"). The album was released on the EMI label, and the band would stay with this record label for their entire career, with both positive and negative experiences. Most of the songs on the album sounded like U2's first record Boy, also using xylophones effects and The Edge's distinctive guitar style.
In 1986, the band released Dois ("Two" - the album was planned to have two discs, but EMI refused to do it). The lyrics, melodies and personality of Renato Russo brought the band considerable notoriety in Brazil, especially among the younger generation which had grown under the fear of the authoritarian Brazilian Military Dictatorship (1964–1985). The songs Tempo Perdido ("Lost Time"), Quase sem Querer ("Almost by Accident"), Eduardo e Mônica, Andrea Doria and "Índios" ('"Natives"') were particularly popular.
The band's success was cemented in 1987, with Que País É Este ("What Country Is This"). They developed a devoted following, and the band came to carry the nickname "Religião Urbana" (meaning "Urban Religion"), something Renato Russo professed to hate.
This was the heaviest album Legião Urbana released during its existence. The only one which can in fact be classified as Punk rock. Two of the songs, "Conexão Amazônica" ("Amazonic Connection" - censored to contain heavy texts about drugs traffic and its routes by Amazon, and critical intellectuals.) and the Dylan-esque "Faroeste Caboclo" - the latter with 168 different lines and ten minutes long - were censored because they contained what was then considered obscene content. "Faroeste Caboclo" was a huge success, nevertheless. Others, such as Que País é Este?, Eu Sei ("I Know"), Química ("Chemistry"), Angra dos Reis (an reference to a homonymous nuclear power plant that exists in Brazil) and Mais do Mesmo ("More of the Same") were hits.
In the first concert in Brasília after the release of their first album, 200 people were wounded in a riot. The band would never again perform publicly in Brasília, the city from which Russo and other band members hailed.