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Caetano Veloso and friends

Caetano plus 2For two hours on Friday night, Caetano Veloso invited us into his living room. Well, the Barbican Hall, actually, but that’s how he made it seem. His guests were the singer Teresa Cristina and the guitarist Carlinhos Sete Cordas, who began the evening by performing songs from their recent album, a collection of duets on pieces by the late samba composer Angenor de Oliveira, better known as Cartola (the album is titled Canta Cartola).

Cristina sang with grace, controlled strength and great expressive power. Carlinhos (“Sete Cordas” refers, I imagine, to the seven strings on his guitar) was a revelation, embedding the vocal line in a fluid matrix of finger-picked detail featuring liquid runs, caressed chords and subtle bass figurations exploiting that extra string below the regular bottom E. I can’t remember hearing an acoustic guitar played with a lovelier and more natural tone — or with a more engaging smile.

When Caetano applauded them from the stage and took over, without a break, it was to present songs chosen, he said, so as not to repeat his regular repertoire. He had selected more obscure material, some of it from his earliest albums, recorded before his arrest by Brazil’s military government in 1968 and his subsequent period of exile in London. The exceptions were “Cucurrucucu Paloma”, familiar from its appearance in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, and “London, London”, the charming song written during his enforced relocation.

Since my Portuguese extends no further than bom dia, muito obrigado, boa sorte and dois capirinhas, por favor, I can’t help but feel a sense of regret when I listen to Caetano, an understanding of his lyrics requiring the subsequent effort of seeking out translations. That small disappointment, however, is easily displaced by enjoyment of the elegant lines and structures of his melodies, and the marvellous qualities of his voice, its conversational tone covering great technique. And one of the sweetest sounds to be heard in any concert hall is that of a largely Brazilian audience gently singing his phrases back to him.

For the finale, he invited his friends to return for a set of encores in which he effortlessly meshed his voice with Cristina’s and his guitar with that of Carlinhos. Nobody wanted them to leave.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Que saudades Richard.
    Wish I had been there,

    April 23, 2017
  2. nuno #

    London, London was born at a dinner when Caetano was complaining to Gilberto Gil and the great Portuguese singer Zeca Afonso that we did not know what to say when his friends asked him for news from abroad. Zeca suggested the lyrics, or part of them. Are you acquainted with Zecas records, Richard?

    April 23, 2017
    • No, I’m not — clearly something to rectify…

      April 23, 2017
      • nuno #

        Start with “Cantigas do Maio” his masterpiece.

        April 23, 2017

    There’s just so much live music to hear in London … The Caetano Velaso concert at the Barbican was on my wish list, but I opted instead to see the Schlippenbach Trio on the same evening; tough call. I’ll console myself with the ‘Canta Cartola’ release, which sounds as though it is a treat.

    April 24, 2017
  4. I so wish I had been at this concert, Richard, beautifully described. Oh, and ”Cucurrucucu Paloma” is also used to great effect in Moonlight (

    April 24, 2017
  5. GuitarSlinger #

    As a Yank in Colorado may I express my abject envy . Back in the day when Varig had its training center here [ Stapleton and then DIA ] with the likes of Jobim’s drummer etc residing here … Denver was a bastion of Brazilian music and culture [ not to mention a once mighty fine Brazilian restaurant that sold and then lost its soul ] But since Varig ‘flew ‘ [ pun intended ] the coop along with most of the Brazilians living here concerts such as this are far too few and in between . Sigh .. Caetano Veloso … and the memories of all those impromptu extended Brazilian jam sessions popping up almost anywhere [ but more often at yours or someone else’s gig etc ] …. sigh ….

    April 24, 2017
  6. hamertheframer #

    I wish I’d seen this! I missed him last time at the Barbican when he played with Gilberto Gil. I mentioned it to my daughter who was in Brazil at the time and she said she’d just seen the two of them play a free concert in Salvador. How perfect. I vowed to catch him next time so why did I miss him again? I must be sleepwalking.

    April 24, 2017
  7. Mary P #

    . Sigh .

    April 25, 2017
  8. London, London – also covered by the wonderful Cibelle:

    April 27, 2017

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