Most aging musicians are content being revered by younger generations. Caetano Veloso prefers to play alongside them. That felt obvious during a lively two-hour set at Lisner Auditorium Sunday as the Brazilian pop laureate raced through cuts from his new album, "C¿" -- an uncharacteristically twitchy batch of songs that resemble both the sobriety of contemporary American indie rock and the restlessness of no-wave.
To rapturous applause, the 65-year-old trotted onto a stage decked out with flashing lights, a fog machine and four colored poles that hung above his backing band like a Calder mobile with the petals plucked off. He launched into "Outro," a song prickling with spiky guitar runs, tick-tocking drums and bass lines that prefer to fidget rather than groove. The quirkiness felt perfectly in tune with Veloso's roots in tropicalia -- the movement he founded in the face of Brazil's military dictatorship in the late '60s. (For the full story, check out Veloso's autobiography, "Tropical Truth" -- quite possibly the best memoir ever penned by a musician.) And even when Veloso's arrangements got nervy, they never got on your nerves, thanks to a sweet, generous voice residing at the heart of every song.
It was on full display during the devastatingly beautiful "Cucurrucucu Paloma," an older tune where his breathy syllables evoked a tea kettle the moment before it begins to whistle. That enchanting, pregnant energy permeated the entire performance, including the spindly new tune "Odeio." The singer was so enamored of this one that he reprised it for the encore, encouraging elated fans to sing along with a refrain that translates as "I hate you." Veloso said earlier in the set that he loved hearing a room sing it back to him.
-- Chris Richards
NSO Family Concert
The children listened in delight as the flowing melodies formed a colorful weave. Iv¿n Fischer, the National Symphony Orchestra's principal guest conductor, moved among them, peppering the Kennedy Center Family Theater audience with questions about the music: "Do you like one instrument or two better?" And later: "What is the deepest instrument in the woodwind section?"
With this well-conceived program of musicmaking and conversation on Sunday afternoon, the NSO did its part for musical education before two sold-out audiences. Fischer charmingly got the crowd going with a lesson in concert fundamentals, listening and applause.
Then came a flowing account of Kreisler's Recitative and Scherzo, played by violinist Natasha Bogachek. Her husband, Zino Bogachek, joined in Leclair's Sonata for 2 violins, while violist Mahoko Eguchi made it a trio for Dvorak's zesty Terzetto. A high-low combination highlighted the woodwinds. In between, Fischer talked about the music's emotions, asking his young listeners simple, but not simplistic, questions.
Flutist Alice Weinreb gave an enrapturing, off-stage reading of Debussy's "Syrinx." Lewis Lipnick, sitting in front, showed the low-lying rumble of the contrabassoon in Schulhoff's "Bass Nightingale." Fischer sent the little ones atwitter when he said that the instrument sounded like it had a bad cold.
But he wanted them to think more seriously too, asking them moments later, "Do you prefer to listen to the music with players on or off stage?" A trio of golden trombones sounded in Bach's "My Spirit Be Joyful," BWV 146. And Fisher gave profuse thanks for the superb listening of his young audience.