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Aging Gracefully

Caetano Veloso at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Silver Raposa: Caetano Veloso Has Been Sexier and More Talented Than You For 40 Years.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 11/7/2007

Caetano Veloso

George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, Washington, D.C., Nov. 4

"He is our Mick Jagger, you know," the prim Brazilian distance-learning consultant in the next seat offered as Caetano Veloso literally bounded on stage. At 65, the singer/songwriter/Tropicália firebrand is, in fact, a year older than the Stones frontman and, in profile, starting to look his age. His jeans, jean jacket, and polo shirt combo came off less like a hip, dressed-down rock star than someone's dad on his way to Home Depot, and the young T-shirted guitar/bass/drums combo behind him looked, at first glance, like a similarly maladroit accessory for an aging legend. But then they struck up the jerky, new-wavy two-step of "Outro" from Veloso's latest album, , and the crowd packing Lisner Auditorium crackled a bit. The consultant had allowed that she didn't think much of his current stripped-down, rock-inflected direction, but as the show got underway, she whispered, "I think he can get away with anything, you know."

And so he did. 's songs are hit and miss (at least for non-Portuguese-speakers), especially so given the generally flat, affectless treatment guitarist Pedro Sá, bassist Ricardo Dias Gomes, and drummer Marcello Callado give them both on disc and live. But on the set's second song, "Minhas Lágrimas," Veloso unfurled that supple, charismatic voice of his, and though the vibrato maybe not be as firm as it once was, its presence fills the room. Next, the frantic frevo rhythm of "Chão Da Praça" sent him tripping along the edge of stage, dancing and waving. His rock cred may not be convincing, but his rock-starness is without question.

As he worked through 's songs, scattered across a two-hour plus set, some of the album's simplistic sound made more sense. A midset solo acoustic turn trotted out two of his best-known and best-loved ballads-his first single, "Coração Vagabundo," four decades old this year, and his swoony version of Tomas Mendez' gorgeous "Cucurrucucu Paloma"-but it also spotlighted Veloso's own terse guitar style, which in turn threw light on Sá's slavish devotion to clicky eighth notes and straight-line solos. And some of the new songs, especially smoky rock ballads "Deusa Urbana" and "Não Me Arrependo," would work in almost any format, as long as Veloso was singing them.

Of course, Veloso has over 40 years of great songs to draw from. Tropicália trainspotters were surely floored by the band powering through "Nine Out of Ten," an English-language tune from his late '60s/early '70s exile in England, and fans were likely sent back to their collections searching for "O Homem Velho," a lovely ballad from the '80s. The bristling "Fora da Ordem," from his 1991 Circuladô album, strutted more convincingly than many of his current "rock" tunes. And he didn't neglect fans, like the friendly consultant, who have less patience for his experiments, doubling down on samba-fied favorites "Sampa" and "Desde Que Sampa É Samba" (the latter featuring a samba-fied solo from drummer Callado).

But Veloso seems to need the experiments, the tangents. He has never followed the pat artistic arc of flourish and burn-out; he's gone through less-inspired periods, but he always seems to find some contrary tactic-like, say, dragging some twentysomethings into the studio and out on the road-to revive himself. The band played Cê's "Odeio" during the set, and then again to close out the encore. Over the song's simmering vamp, a smiling Veloso crooned, "Odeio você, odeio você, odeio você"-"I hate you, I hate you, I hate you"-and no one seemed to be having a better time than him.

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