University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium
Ann Arbor, Michigan
November 9, 2007
Although the University Musical Society based at the University of Michigan has always had somewhat broad tastes in music, making each season a delightful potpourri of genre mixing, recently they have delved heartily into Brazilian music, presenting some of that country's best artists. Past presentations have included concerts by Gilberto Gil and Egberto Gismonti. A recent bill at Hill Auditorium marked the second appearance on campus of the renowned Caetano Veloso. One of the most celebrated figures in contemporary Brazilian music, this singer/songwriter was one of the major contributors to the Tropicalismo movement in the late '60s, mixing the traditional elements of his country's music with outside influences, including American rock, mainstream pop and folk, psychedelia, and spoken poetry.
In January of this year, Veloso released the album cê, a statement that sounds more like alternative rock than the type of Brazilian fare one unfamiliar with Veloso might associate with the singer. In support of the album, Veloso's appearance in Ann Arbor would be one of only a few stops he would make this year outside of his native Brazil. The same group as heard on the album, Veloso's trio sported the talented youngsters Pedro Sá on guitar, Ricardo Dias Gomes on bass, and Marcelo Callado at the drums. At the age of 65, Veloso had no trouble keeping up with his twenty-something counterparts. In fact, for much of the two hour set he was a man in motion, dancing back and forth from one side of the stage to the other. At one point, he even decided to make his way through the audience, singing and giving "high fives as he made his way down the aisles.
With such a large body of work to choose from, Veloso had his work cut out for him just in putting together a set list but managed to strike a healthy balance between the newer material from cê and standard numbers from further back in the catalog. Some of the pieces he performed by himself, accompanied simply by his guitar, while others featured the entire band and allowed room for solos, mainly from Sá. When not performing, Veloso proved to be a charming personality when taking the time to chat with the audience. At one point, he amused the crowd with his story of how a recent interview with a reporter went sour, concluding that he was "used to people being mad at [him] at least since 1967. The comment proved to be a perfect segue into "Odeio, a piece with a refrain that loosely translates into "I hate you.
Along the way there were a few songs sung in English, including "London, London and "You Don't Know Me. Many of his familiar numbers found members of the audience joining Veloso in Portuguese for the choruses. Indeed, a full house was more than appreciative of the evening's musical offerings, insisting on an encore that eventually spilled into a total of five additional numbers. It made for a special evening that found the old mixing with the new with splendid results.
C. Andrew Hovan