Music

Caetano Veloso & David Byrne: Live at Carnegie Hall

Live at Carnegie Hall may be forgettable, but it’s a harmless and occasionally pleasing aside in the oeuvre of two undeniably necessary artists.


Caetano Veloso & David Byrne

Live at Carnegie Hall

Label: Nonesuch
US Release Date: 2012-03-13
UK Release Date: 2012-03-12
Amazon
iTunes

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.

Why Live at Carnegie Hall, which is drawn from an intimate 2004 show at the famed New York venue, is coming out eight years after the initial event is anyone’s guess, though it does go a long way towards cementing both artist’s "living legend" status. Byrne has definitely made the most out of his fame, making sure to keep his fingers in lots of different artistic pies. These days he’s just as much a musician as he is a cycling spokesperson or a mastermind of ludicrously scaled art installations.

Caetano Veloso is still best known as one of the inventors of the unique Brazilian genre Tropicalia, which combined equal parts protest anthems and infectious Hendrix-inspired dance tunes. It’s fair to say he has mellowed significantly over the past few decades.

Live at Carnegie Hall builds on Veloso’s recent persona as a floppy hatted, acoustic-guitar toting Joao Gilberto acolyte. The album’s opening tracks feature Veloso gently strumming his guitar. As the set progresses he’s gradually joined by cello and percussion accompaniment. The spare instrumentation works especially well on the sublimely melancholy "Coraco Vagabundo", though it’s not a great sign that the album peaks before Byrne even shows up.

Anyone hoping what it would sound like to hear these two harmonize or trade verses on "I Zimbra" is bound to be disappointed. Of the album’s 18 songs, only three are duets, or four if you count Veloso’s flighty backing vocal on "Heaven". The only real moment of unity comes on the gentle "Dreamworld: Marco De Canaveses", which the duo penned together.

David Byrne’s reputation as a fan of world music notwithstanding, he and Veloso make an odd match. Byrne’s occasionally strident tone doesn’t exactly fit with his partner’s sweetly soaring voice. This disparity gets highlighted when Veloso manages to elicit a hearty chuckle from the crowd after adopting a Byrne-esque yelp on "[Nothing But] Flowers". In fact, the pairing doesn’t seem to based on anything more than mutual admiration. Live at Carnegie Hall's tracklist is split pretty evenly down the middle between Veloso and Byrne sets. The album plays more like some program director’s fantasy double-bill than a real collaboration.

The whole thing feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Despite Veloso’s born-again Bossa Nova traditionalism, anyone who’s taken even a toenail dip into his massive back catalog knows he has the adventurous spirit of a true musical pioneer. It would be great to hear what these two could come up with together beyond your basic acoustic crowd pleasers.

""

Anyone who ever hoped to hear an acoustic take on Talking Heads classics like "Life During Wartime", or wondered what Little Creatures standout "And She Was" would sound like with some serious woodblock accompaniment will more than satisfied. Live at Carnegie Hall is bound to appear as the soundtrack at more than a few hipster barbeques this summer.

I seriously doubt any of this is a sign that either artist is in the waning phases of his career. Veloso continues to arrange gorgeous soundtracks for filmmakers such as Pedro Almodóvar, and Byrne’s excellent 2008 collaboration with Brian Eno Everything That Happens Will Happen Today serves as proof that he has vital songwriting left in him. Live at Carnegie Hall may be forgettable, but it’s a harmless and occasionally pleasing aside in the oeuvre of two undeniably necessary artists.

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.