By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Apr 1, 2012
For one sensational week each year, the trees blossom and my street gains a canopy of white. In a light breeze, there are waves overhead. A stiffer breeze, and it seems to snow. And then, suddenly, there are leaves and we’re on our way toward summer.
The words that come to mind are “delicate” and “Japanese.”
I cannot watch TV news in this season. So much beauty in the world, but every screen shows guns and violence and threats of more. Men choking on their own testosterone and daring us to withhold admiration --- what a pathetic spectacle.
My idea of manhood? David Byrne and Caetano Veloso, separately and together. Tall, thin, professionally sensitive --- as performers, they’re brothers. Neither seems likely to break a sweat.
Veloso’s songs start in the ether; there’s no thrust, no urgency. He’s in the transportation business; his songs don’t come to you, you come to them. And when you arrive, you’re wrapped in his thoughts and moods. [To read more about Caetano Veloso, click here.]
Byrne’s trickier. When he was the kingpin of Talking Heads, he wrote his share of off-kilter hits; he can, at will, get you dancing. But he’s shy, maybe aloof, and diffident --- no one’s more self-consciously cool than a New York art rocker.
Veloso and Byrne both work in the upper register. They share a borderless sense of music, one minute in America, the next in Brazil. Pairing them in concert at Carnegie Hall --- a no-brainer.
My wife and I saw the 2004 Veloso-Byrne concert from about the tenth row. It was magic, spectacular right from the from start --- I think pretty much everyone there got that, and felt privileged, and went nuts with pleasure and gratitude after each song. A while back, we ran into Byrne at a gallery and asked about a CD. “Soon,” he said. “Maybe.” Well, what’s eight years --- half as long as it takes for single malt to be drinkable. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
Veloso begins the show. If you’re new to him, you might not immediately grasp that Brazilians rank him in the Bob Dylan zone. Then the sweetness and sensitivity seduce you. Byrne’s presence comes almost as a shock. But not really, because there’s no band here, just cello and percussion --- the Talking Heads songs you know and love do rock, just more intimately. Byrne and Veloso do some duets. Byrne sings in Portuguese. The words really don't matter; this evening was really about an exploration of sound. Namely, about how many different ways you can achieve gorgeousness.
We live in the land of reality TV competitions; we can't help ourselves from asking who won. These guys are way beyond that. Serve this music with wine at dinner. And don't fail to savor it again, late in the evening; in the dark, it is the wine.