Album Review: Live At Carnegie Hall by Caetano Veloso/David Byrne
Fairly Good, Based on 6 Critics
NOW Magazine - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Recorded in 2004 as part of Carnegie Hall's Perspectives series, this live collaboration between Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso and former Talking Head - and outspoken Brazilian music fan - David Byrne is primarily a study in voice and acoustic guitar. Although Veloso was technically the headlining act, they perform songs by both writers. On Nothing But Flowers, the two trade vocals, with Veloso highlighting the whimsy in Byrne's critique of consumer culture.
David Byrne's world music label Luaka Bop introduced the likes of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to a new western audience in 1989. Fifteen years later, Veloso invited "my favourite American artist" to appear with him in New York, and now – after a mysterious delay – that 2004 concert is finally released. It was worth the wait. This is an intriguing acoustic set backed by their own guitars, with occasional help from the celebrated Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and percussionist Mauro Refosco.
One result of David Byrne's love affair with Brazilian music was a friendship with veteran singer and activist Caetano Veloso, who, like Byrne, mixes catchy tunes with ironic, sometimes surreal lyrics. This 2004 acoustic show is an entrancing showcase of their respective talents. Veloso breezes through hits such as "Você é Linda" before Byrne arrives to give Talking Heads classics such as "Road to Nowhere" a gentle bossa touch, with help from cello and percussion.
Longtime friends and collaborators Caetano Veloso and David Byrne joined forces for a special Carnegie Hall concert broadcast on National Public Radio in the spring of 2004. Eight years later, Live at Carnegie Hall is released, containing highlights from this stripped-down, primarily acoustic meeting of one of Tropicalia's biggest artists with one of the pillars of art rock. Sequenced in the order the concert was played, the disc begins with a solo set by Veloso ending with his cover of the Talking Heads' "The Revolution" to segue into Byrne's set.
Maybe it’s the staid, revered aura of Carnegie Hall. Maybe it’s that a revolutionary spirit naturally mellows with age. Maybe it’s that music written in the face of an oppressive military regime, in a time of worldwide cultural upheaval, and with the influences of psychedelia, just doesn’t seem as relevant anymore at age 62. For whatever reason, Caetano Veloso‘s performance with David Byrne on the new album, Live at Carnegie Hall, wasn’t quite the mindblowing collaboration it seems like it should be.
Any artist trying to crack the code to longevity would do well to follow the careers of David Byrne and Caetano Veloso. Both men are respected elder statesmen with careers that span 30-plus years. When you command such a vaunted position you get to do things like play all-acoustic sets at Carnegie Hall with one of your equally respected buddies. It’s just one of the perks.