Milton Nascimento at Carnegie Hall

Ernest Barteldes By

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Milton Nascimento
Carnegie Hall
New York, New York
November 18, 2009

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first Carnegie Hall appearance, Milton Nascimento presented exactly what his many fans were hoping for: an evening filled with many of his greatest hits, including a few numbers he hadn't played live in quite a few years. "it is a blessing to play here," he declared in English halfway through the set, acknowledging the passing of a quarter century since his first concert at that venue.

Backed by an excellent four-piece band, Nascimento opened with a wordless number that highlighted his vast vocal range. He followed that with a more obscure number that led into "Paula e Bebeto," an early hit co-written with Caetano Veloso. Without acknowledging the audience, he and the band played a highly percussive arrangement of "Bola de Meia, Bola de Gude" and a very low-key take on "Cacador de Mim," a song that has become one of Brazil's contemporary standards since its release in the mid-1970s.

"Encontros e Despedidas" returned to the Brazilian charts thanks to Maria Rita's recording (on her self-titled 2003 debut). Nascimento opted to use a more straightforward arrangement without too many variations, probably to emphasize the tune's lyrics, which speak of the different, special, often life-changing encounters that people have throughout their lives. After that, they played another wordless number dedicated to the songwriter's mother. "There are no lyrics to this song," he said, "because no words can possibly compare to the beauty of that woman."

He returned to the classics with "Ponta de Areia," a tune that laments the demise of an old railway that ran between his home state of Minas Gerais and Bahia. He sang it mostly accompanied solely by his pianist, his band joining in during the last few bars, and swiftly connected that song to "Coracao de Estudante," a tune that became the symbol of his country's long but victorious struggle for democracy during the mid-1980s.

It was a surprise to hear the song which, though ubiquitous at the time, Nascimento refused to perform for a long time, mostly because, as he reportedly said, it had been overplayed. Other highlights included the beautiful "Cancao da America" and "A Lua Girou," which featured full audience participation during the chorus.

The band came back with an encore—"Maria Maria," a hit for the late Elis Regina that had everyone singing along—the perfect close for a highly memorable evening.

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