Even though Os Mutantes formed in the late ’60s, the Brazilian band has been on hiatus since the late ’70s and never played Cleveland. You’d think that would be reason enough for the Beachland Ballroom to be packed for the group’s first-ever Northeast Ohio concert. But a crowd of about only 100 showed up last night to catch the group, which is on an extensive U.S. tour for the first time in 30 years.
But Os Mutantes were unfazed by the small turnout and delivered a thrilling two-hour show that touched on their psych-rock past and offered a look at their promising future by including songs from their terrific new album, Haih or Amortecedor.
Wearing a long, flowing robe, frontman Sérgio Dias looked every bit the part of a rock ’n’ roll messiah as he walked onstage. His calm demeanor wasn’t shaken when bits of feedback interrupted the first three songs of the set. “Do you need the manual?” he asked the soundman, before offering to tell “Portuguese jokes” while a bad microphone cable was swapped out. “We’ll just sing like the Beatles used to sing and share one microphone,” he said.
The band had to stop their cover of Caetano Veloso’s delicate “Baby” mid-song, but that didn’t deter them from bringing it to its gentle conclusion. Once the sound problems were solved, the band kicked it up a notch, nailing the strange, hiccupping vocals on “Anagrama” (a new tune they co-wrote with Brazilian roots-rock weirdo Tom Ze) and delivering their signature song “A Minha Menina” in all its psychedelic glory.
“Hey Cleveland, put your hands together,” said Dias. “This is your night. You may die tomorrow. You never know. Let’s kick some ass.” Accompanied by two keyboardists who brought the music’s psych nuances to life, Dias certainly played like his life depended on it.
DeLeon, a three-piece from Brooklyn, opened with a set of gypsy jazz that found madcap guitarist Dan Saks singing in some strange Spanish dialects. Not that the music suffered because of it. Rather, when paired with the band’s mix of banjo, xylophone and bass, the incomprehensible lyrics had a real exotic quality. —Jeff Niesel