Sao Paulo, Brazil’s influential psychedelic pop group packed the house at Oberlin’s ‘Sco last night and delivered a terrific concert. Often pushed into that vague and boundless category of “world music,” Os Mutantes was part of the late-‘60s Tropicália movement and merged together traditional Brazilian sounds with outside influence. Their songs combine catchy rock ‘n’ roll riffs and avant-garde experimentation.
Their sound is a multifaceted one; it’s the sound of soulful maraca-shakin’-heavy grooving guitar rifts, manic ever-changing delirium and an unexplainable effervescent spark of romance. If you don’t know any Portuguese, that doesn’t matter either. You can hum along or maybe even sing phonetically using that Spanish you learned back in high school, and they’ll meet you half way — they speak good English. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne released their 1999 retrospective titled Everything Is Possible!. After seeing them live, I don’t think that this title was intended with any irony.
“You really know us?” said original vocalist, Sérgio Dias. “That’s a gift from the universe!” “50 years of career!” Dias exclaimed. He told the audience that he was only 13 when he started making music; now he’s in his 60s. Dias (guitar) and his brother Arnaldo Baptista (bass) began in a teenage band. Baptista left Os Mutantes in ‘73 after disagreements and too many hallucinogens. The band re-formed in 2006 after a 30-year hiatus with a modified lineup. They played a long and thorough set that included classic favorites such as Jorge Ben’s “A Minha Menina" “Desculpe Babe” and "Bat Macumba." They also performed songs sung in English from their newest album Fool Metal Jacket. Their encore included the Beatles cover “Hard Days Night,” a flute solo and a well-received final bow. You can tell when a band is genuinely happy to be performing; Os Mutantes is one of those bands.