Reviews May 1, 2024
Caetano Veloso's farewell to Brooklyn?

Our correspondent Harrison Malkin is a huge fan of Caetano Veloso. The 81-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist and author has remained a giant of Brazilian music from his 1967 debut right up to the present day. Caetano constantly refreshes his music with new elements, new collaborators and ideas, as if the very act of artistic reinvention were his secret to defying old age. Caetano recently played two nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Harrison was there, and filed this review.

Live photos by Ellen Qbertplaya.

The last time I saw Caetano Veloso was on my twenty-first birthday — it was just outside the city limits of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Caetano and his sons, Moreno, Zeca and Tom, were on acoustic guitars, strumming softly — with the Argentine sun shining brightly.

People cried and took pictures, making witness to the moment. Then the phones went down and there was dancing. A lot of it. It was less a choice, and more a necessity — embracing the beautiful day and the sound that has come to represent so much for Tropicália—especially, Caetano Veloso—fans around the world. 

I felt like I was in a magical trance — singing to songs that I’ve played so many times, on long walks, in my college dorm — in moments of romance, joy, and calm.

I felt even more overwhelmed when I saw Caetano Veloso take the stage on April 3 — this time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City — just days after my birthday, my girlfriend by my side. The tears rolled down my cheek when he came out with his slow, melodic 1967 track "Avarandado." It felt like a treat to take her along for the ride, to see his musicality, witnessing again his enormity and wonder. I was surprised that his voice still sounded the same, just timeless.

For Caetano, it was a return to BAM — not with his friend and frequent collaborator Gilberto Gil — but with his talented, multi-instrumental band: Lucas Nunes on guitar and keyboard, Rodrigo Tavares also on keys, Alberto Continentino on electric bass, Kainã do Jêje, Pretinho da Serrinha, and Thiaguinho da Serrinha on percussion.

His sons didn't appear this time. A bigger band and more percussion meant fireworks on the BAM stage with Caetano often dancing from movement to movement and becoming one with the colors of the impressive art installation hanging above the stage.

The show was both for his farewell U.S. tour and a chance to promote his most recent album from 2021, Meu Coco, which was his first new album in nearly ten years. Many fans were less familiar with the early tracks in the set list that were pulled from the new album. But they seemed dazzled, even if hearing them for the first time. Veloso calls it an album "of quantity and intensity," coming out of the pandemic and with many themes of family. He says one translation of "Meu Coco," is "My Coconut" but another is “My Noggin."

BAM needed to free us from our seats, to match Caetano’s energy and force. But people freed themselves. Looking up at the balcony, I could hear and see the loud Portuguese from friends and lovers being spun and twirled around.

At 81-years-old, there was no sense that this was a farewell tour, or a final act. It felt like another stage, another setting in which to connect with old and new fans. Caetano brought “the it factor” to BAM and the experience made me want to travel the East Coast with him for his performances in Boston, Newark and, Princeton, but I didn’t. Life gets busy. I felt lucky to see him at all.

"I just plan to sing weekly in a small theater in Bahia … and let whoever in the world who wants to hear me singing live come to see me there," Veloso told The Houston Chronicle. I guess a trip to Brazil is in my future.

He went through a bit more of his new music and then the classic tunes – and as he eased into the end of his performance, he did the English-language fan-favorite from 1972, “You Don’t Know Me.” 

Feel so lonely.
The world is spinning round slowly…
Come on and show me from behind the wall.
Show me from behind the wall.

Caetano received two standing ovations after an hour and a half of bliss – allowing us to forget about the cold, rainy night outside the walls of the venue. The world did, for a few hours, seem perfect. And less lonely.

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