field report no.042116

SUBJECT: Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

How do the Brazilians do it? That was my question as I watched a packed-house, 3-tier music hall sit in rapt silence as Gilberto Gil sang in a hush—almost a capella, simply keeping rhythm by tapping the body of his guitar. In total, the whole night was 2 hours of Caetano and Gil, alone on stage with nothing but microphones and their nylon-string guitars…that, and their plaintive, beautiful songs.

Their musical rapport is stunning. Sure, bossa nova is a shared heritage, but they've been in each other's orbit for decades now. Caetano introduced one song as the first they had ever written together… in 1963. That means their partnership is now 53 years old.

Caetano is in stunning voice at 73, dynamic and with emotive. If Gilberto's chords are a tad more weathered, there's still these amazing moments as if he's singing two notes at once, a sort of phantom harmony. The rhythms were subtle and supple. I've often idly wondered if the phrasing in Brazilian pop was more of a function of Portuguese as a language or bossa nova's proximity to jazz.

The night leaned heavily on their classics, I recognized plenty of tunes from their 60s and 70s albums, but they included some more recent material—even a song they wrote on this tour. They're both such beloved figures in Brazil, it was a treat to see them in NYC (which has a large Brazilian population). Hearing the audience's reactions—how each song was cheered, which ones they clapped or sang along to. It presented music that can be somewhat foreign (to someone who doesn't speak portuguese), as something present and very much in the fabric of a community.

NOTES: Caetano Veloso. Gilberto Gil.
PRESENT: AMS; Jared E.; Jose A.; Jesse S.