All words and photos by Chris Svetlik.
This has been a good month in DC for Brazilian music. In October the freshly-reunited Os Mutantes—“the Beatles of Brazil”—played the State Theatre, and a few weeks ago Gal Costa——played Lisner. Then, Wednesday night Milton Nascimento came to the Birchmere. All three were/are titans of the Brazilian music scene, and for them to all come to DC in the same year, let alone month, is pretty stellar.
Which basically means they’re all pretty old now. And while Os Mutantes were showing some symptoms of Old Man Mick Jagger Syndrome, Milton seems to have never skipped a beat—he’s still “got it.” He’s approaching 70 now but still has an aura of cool; he still rocks the beaded hair, indoor sunglasses, and leather jacket and pulls it off no problem.
Nascimento is probably one of Brazil’s most prolific artists, having released more or less an album per year for the last 40 years. Thus I unfortunately don’t have the Milton library memorized, and a bunch of the songs he was playing Wednesday I didn’t recognize, so it’s hard to place exactly where along his timeline the songs were mainly from. Most of them seemed older, but they definitely weren’t straight covers of the old hits. He’s an artist that has never ceased evolving, and has added new touches to old songs seamlessly.
One thing was for sure though—most everyone in the audience could sing along with pretty much anything he was playing. Apparently DC has a pretty big Brazilian immigrant population, and apparently they were all at the Birchmere on Weds, singing along jovially. Milton never played Cio da Terra—maybe the greatest build-up song ever—which was a little disappointing, but everything he did play was tight, energetic, and bearing all the marks of Brazilian loveliness.
He came back after a massive demand for an encore, then the lights came on and the giant Brazilian crowd dispersed. My companion at the show, who speaks pretty fluent Portuguese, buddied up with one of the roadies, Darka, who referred us to some tour manager dude, Bashta (Brazilian names = great names) backstage. While waiting around for our allotted 60 seconds with Milton, Bashta walks up and almost immediately asks my buddy if we know anywhere they can find some maconha (feel free to Google translate that)—oh Brazilians. Unfortunately we knew not where to score some maconha out in northern Alexandria, so I guess we blew our one chance at being “those cool guys” in the eyes of a Brazilian music god. Anyhow, we got to meet Milton eventually (!!) and chat him up a little as he coolly sipped his wine, surrounded by brazilions of Brazilians. Pretty solid night.