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Caetano Veloso and David Byrne – Live at Carnegie Hall

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Caetano Veloso and David Byrne – Live at Carnegie Hall

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Dorian

Live at carnegie hall is a live album recorded back in 2004 featuring the talents of Caetano Veloso and David Byrne. Caetano Veloso is not a name that I was familiar with prior to purchasing this album, the presence of the former Talking Heads front man was my main reason to pick it up. However, it is the talents of Caetano Veloso that really drive this engaging live album. The Brazlian  singer, guitarist and songwriter has recorded dozens of albums since his debut in 1967 and is a significant musical and political figure in his homeland.

Caetano Veloso and David Byrne

The firs third of the album is Caetano performing alone, with cello and percussion being added gradually to the set. The songs here are beautifully played and sung, the skillful guitar work perfectly complementing his understated vocal style. There are two slight problems with the set at this point, the first (and this is not a valid criticism) is the language barrier. He is a famous political figure as well as musician and I wish I could understand the words as I have no doubt they would add significantly to the impact of the songs. The second problem is a bigger one, however lovely the songs are the whole performance is just a little bit polite. The light and airy style coupled with the controlled enthusiasm of the audience’s applause lacks a passion that I would have expected from a musician of Veloso’s reputation. However, these are lovely songs performed with real skill.

The more collaborative parts of the concert start with Veloso singing a David Byrne song, ‘The Revolution’, and half way through Byrne takes to the stage and adds his vocals to the mix. The next few songs showcase David Byrne’s catalogue with solo tracks and Talking Head’s favourites getting a an airing. This is the part of the album I was looking forward to most, but is actually the most frustrating. I had hoped that we would hear these songs interpreted in an interesting way to reflect the collaboration on stage. What we actually get is a kind of “David Byrne Unplugged” set, which is never going to be a bad thing (when the sings are this good) but also something of a missed opportunity. That aside, there is a bit of a thrill to hear ‘And She Was’ and ‘Road To Nowhere’ performed live as they never got a stage airing when Talking Heads were still together (and the performance of ‘Road To Nowhere’ is actually pretty great).

Things get properly interesting in the final third of the set as we get to hear a proper collaboration between the two performers. ‘Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses’ is a co-written duet and manages to perfectly distill the different writing and performing styles of both men. The highlight of the album is a duet run through the beautiful ‘(Nothing but) Flowers’ which is a spirited and warm performance that quickens pace throughout. It really is a great performance, and one that is very different from the original, and for me justifies the price of the album alone.

The album closes out with ‘Terra’, a Veloso song that has some of the spirit that was missing from the earlier songs, and a typically stirring take on Talking Head’s ‘Heaven’ which brings things to a conclusion pretty perfectly.

This is a hard album to score (and I’m no big fan of scoring my reviews at the best of times) as it is a recording of what I imagine was a fantastic live concert, but it falls just a little bit short as an album. I imagine that I’ll listen to the album, but mainly as background and less often as the musical focus. It is recomended to any Talking Heads fan who would like to add a few new live versions to their collections, and is a good introduction to Veloso, an artist that I will be seeking out more of on the strength of his songs here.


By Dorian Rogers


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