MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil gave a pure and poignant concert at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival on Wednesday, celebrating decades of Brazilian music and friendship.
The pair of singer-songwriters sat on a bare stage at Stravinski Auditorium, each playing an acoustic guitar, but without a back-up band, throughout the 100-minute concert that included two encores.
They opened with “Back in Bahia”, the northeastern region where they are from, and played standards in Brazilian Portuguese including “Tropicalia”, emblematic of their influential movement in the late 1960s that blends Brazilian and African beats with rock.
Veloso and Gil, now 72 and 73, endured imprisonment by the military regime as “subversives” before being exiled to London in 1969. Decades later Gil became Brazil’s culture minister under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Billed as “Two Friends, a Century of Music”, the sold-out show was a highlight of the 49th edition of one of Europe’s most prestigious summer music festivals.
“It was incredible for me. It was very intimate, just two guitars and two singers,” said Gabriela Adao, a Brazilian living near Geneva. “The atmosphere and quality of the music was great. They picked the right songs.”
Veloso put aside his guitar during “Marginalia”, joining in the vocals, and the duo teamed up for “E Luxo So”, followed by “Sampa”, about the city of Sao Paolo.
“Terra” (Earth), Veloso’s song about seeing images of the earth filmed from space, for the first time while he was in a prison, made some in the audience cry. “Tonada de Luna llena” by Gil, about the full moon, was also moving.
For their encore, they sang “Desde Que o Samba e Samba”, ending the night arm-in-arm on the famed stage.
The pair, who played in London two weeks ago, have dates booked later this month in Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal before returning to their homeland for gigs in August.
Duos have featured heavily in Montreux’s line-up this year, led by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, going “cheek to cheek” in a mix of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and Edith Piaf to a sell-out crowd spanning generations.
Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea team up on Thursday. The 16-day festival ends on Saturday with a tribute to Paco de Lucia, the Spanish flamenco guitarist who died last year at 66.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Lisa Shumaker