By Paul de Barros
In the spring of 2004, the incomparable Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso curated a week of concerts in New York, including one with his longtime friend David Byrne. If you're thinking that's an odd match — celestial-voiced romantic meets deadpan ironist — it is, in a way.
But the two find common ground, and the concert is an absolute jewel. Byrne, after all, is a Brazilian-music aficionado and Veloso's aesthetic can be as cerebral, angular and surreal as anything Talking Heads ever recorded.
The show develops nicely. Veloso opens with gentle hits greeted immediately by applause ("Desde Que o Samba é Samba," "Sampa" and the McCartney-ish "Voce é Linda") in his irresistibly soothing croon, over lilting acoustic guitar. Cellist Jacques Morelenbaum, then percussionist Mauro Refosco join for a gorgeously dark "Coração Vagabundo," then Veloso and Byrne bridge to Byrne's segment with a duet on the enigmatically teasing "The Revolution." Byrne hits his stride on "Life During Wartime" and brings a chill to the house on "Road to Nowhere."
The two sing a new collaboration, "Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses," as well as Byrne's reverse-environmentalist idyll, "Nothing But Flowers," then the men take it out with their respective showstoppers, Veloso on "Terra" (in what may be my favorite version on record now), Byrne on "Heaven." It's the next best thing to being there.