sat 24/08/2019

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Barbican

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Barbican

A joint concert of two of Brazil's great singers impresses a rapt audience

The McCartney and Jagger of Brazil

In which two of the biggest beasts of Brazilian music played in tandem (and it was often playful) sparred with each other and revealed despite being rivals, how close they have been and remain. The equivalent might be something like the Sting/Paul Simon duet concert, the difference being that these two have known each other for half a century and were architects of the late sixties Tropicalia  movement in Brazil, a musical revolution where, as Wordsworth might have said at the time “bliss was it to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”. The duo and others brought global pop, avant-classical music and psychedelia together with samba and bossa nova.

The two might have turned into dinosaurs by now, joylessly repeating the hits but they have both managed to intelligently reinvent themselves over the years and despite Gil being a member of Lula’s government as Minister of Culture, they both still have kept some anti-authority kudos. Both of them were in exile together in London in the time of the dictatorship - the only song in English, apart from a Bob Marley encore, was “Nine Out Of Ten” with its references to Portobello Road and the Electric Cinema. London is close to their hearts, and the packed out London audience responded with enormous warmth.

The two have very different voices and personalities that play off each other - Gil seems more direct and grounded (his voice at times reminded me of Nina Simone in its deep tenderness) while Veloso is a sprite, more androgynous, sometimes perverse and difficult to pin down.

The concert was unplugged, just two men with guitars and voices, which stripped back some of their best known songs to their essence, which often revealed how many songs were in a post-bossa nova tradition, in the wake of Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto, something that the clever arrangements had obscured.  

While both men’s voices had a somewhat rougher texture than in their gilded youth, there was no question of not hitting the notes

One thing that unites them is their home province of Bahia, a great musical centre, with references to the local spiritual and cultural traditions in the jaunty “Sao João Xango” or the reference to the white robed “Filhos De Ghandi” but more generally in the way old folk and samba elements combined with modernist music and lyrics. 

The show featured very early songs - one “É De Manha” from “late 63 or early 64” to “As Camélias” written last year with around thirty of their songs from the intervening decades. Gil’s songs that got the strongest audience response were “Toda Menina” and “Andar Com Fé” , both beautifully structured while Veloso’s were the gorgeous “Terra” and, as a second encore, the immortal “O Leãozinho.”  While both men’s voices had a somewhat rougher texture than in their gilded youth, there was no question of not hitting the notes.  This was a special night and much of the audience were Brazilians listening to a soundtrack of their lives.. And with Brazil in political meltdown at the moment, the last song, Marley’s “Don’t Worry About A Thing” sent the rapt audience home on a needed soothing note.

"Gil seems more direct and grounded (his voice at times reminded me of Nina Simone in its deep tenderness) while Veloso is a sprite, more androgynous, sometimes perverse"

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters