REVIEW/PHOTOS : Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso at the Barbican

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil at the Barbican
Photo credit: Victor Hugo Guidini

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil 
(Barbican Hall, 4th May 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

As Barry Norman once said, "you're not there to review the audience;" but what an audience they were. You could feel the strong sense of connection, the deeply personal resonances which many of the songs that Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso sing are capable of evoking in a crowd of London-Brazilians. This review has some great photos from one of them: the brilliant young photographer Victor Hugo Guidini. 

Gil and Veloso were born in the same year, 1942, so they will both be 74 later this summer. Veloso seemed the most concerned to prove that he is still in a state of juvenescence, dancing shimmies and at one point even doing a gym plank (a moment caught on camera by Victor below). Gil the former culture minister was content to be the elder statesman, his right foot finding repose on a guitar stool. Their voices did show some hints of strain, with Veloso's occasionally fragile, Gil's sometimes hoarse, Both sets of guitar fingers are as agile as you'd ever want. Gil's in particular. And both men were consistently finding  delicacy, lyricism and subtlety in those (nylon?) strings.

Close harmony: Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil at the Barbican
Photo credit: Victor Hugo Guidini

That said, they sing solo and harmonize to the manner born, and neither of them has lost the ability to caress a melody. They mix old songs and new from their vast repertoires, the former causing people slight perplexity ("I don't know this one", my neighbour last night said to me a couple of times with surprise. However,  the transitions back into the familiar made the moments of re-connection all the more intense (a grab of my arm, frequent need for the handkerchief to dry a tear). when they reverted to numbers people  were expecting such as Terra, Desde que o Samba é Samba, Expresso 2222 or Drão,

They sang in four languages last night - Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English, increasing the sense of a varied journey. Sound quality was very good where I sat. There was some clever dramaturgy in the lighting, notably in Gil's Não Tenho Medo da Morte (I have no fear of death), and someone will need to explain to me quite why the audience and the performers laughed so much at  "Lula," a falling minor third as the repeated response to the words "Odeio Voce" (I hate you).

Two master singer-songwriter-performers who have lost none of their magic.

Caetano Veloso's impressive gym plank
Photo credit: Victor Hugo Guidini

LINKS: Nonesuch page for Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música: Multishow Live


  1. Lula was clearly a reference to their now disgraced former President

  2. Great review. It was a great concert indeed. The crowd didn't shout "Lula", but "Cunha". Like in the Rio de Janeiro concert:

    And perhaps the London crowd shouted so loudly that coincidentally the Brazilian Supreme Court suspended Cunha the day after the concert.