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Live Reviews

Caetano Veloso
November 20, 2007

By Ernest Barteldes
Nokia Theater
New York City


After performing with lavish orchestras in his previous tours, Caetano Veloso came on stage backed by the same simple guitar band backing that is featured on his latest disc, the rock-inflected (recently reviewed here by Tad Hendrickson). The stage setting was also simple enough, with no more than the stage lighting and the theater's own bare walls. He entered the stage with little ceremony, opening with “Outro” and quickly moving on into the English-language  “Nine Out Of Ten,” a more obscure tune from his 1972 Transa LP, recorded shorty after he returned from England after a four-year forced exile and then into the Carnaval-inflected “Chão da Praça.”

Early in the show, Veloso's voice sounded a bit rawer than usual, but that suited the material played that night, which had more of a rock than a poppier Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) feel. He also showcased many songs from previous discs duly rearranged for a small band - the classic “Sampa” (a song he wrote in the late 70s in homage to the city of São Paulo) and “Fora de Ordem” stood out as examples.


In one of the concert's highlights, the band left the stage as he paused to speak about one of the songs as he picked up an acoustic guitar. After telling some of the story behind that tune, he ended with a comment from a Brazilian blogger that said that “everyone is tired of what Caetano Veloso has to say, but even worse is his guitar playing.” He then set to play “Coração Vagabundo,” a classic from his 1965 début (Domingo, which he did with Gal Costa) and the Spanish language ranchera classic “Paloma,” which became sort of a hit for him after Pedro Almodóvar featured it on his Oscar-winning Talk To Her.


Another great moment came with “Odeio” (I Hate) – only someone like Veloso could sing lyrics that express hate (the refrain simply says “I Hate You, I Hate You”) with a smile on his face – he later said that his friend and composer Jorge Mautner came to tears when he heard a demo of the song, telling him that Veloso had found the best way to express love by using the word “hate.”


At 65 years old, Veloso still retains plenty of his youthful energy, often prancing around on stage and doing a some samba steps during a few songs.  His band is incredibly tight, and the new arrangements to his older songs fit them like a glove. Caetano has reinvented himself, and he has done that with a perfection that few artists have been able to accomplish.