Os Mutantes, Mutantes Live At – Barbican Theatre, London, 2006

Jim Farber

By Jim Farber

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

If good things come to those who wait, do great things come to those who wait longer? The saga of Os Mutantes suggests that's true. Fans of the band had to cool their heels for more than thirty years, waiting for this brilliant Brazilian group to reunite. Then, just over a year ago, they finally got their wish, when the “house band” of the legendary Tropicalia movement came together for their first live tour since the mid 1970s.

The legendary Tropicalia band: still capable of surprise 30 years later.

In truth, the group's resurgence began in 1999, when David Byrne's Luaka Bop label unveiled the aptly named compilation, Everything Is Possible. Since then, many big-time alterna-Americans have championed them, including Beck, the Flaming Lips 'Wayne Coyne, Kurt Cobain and Devendra Banhart.

The band's live return took place in May 2006 at the Barbican Theatre in London during a festival of Tropicalia music (a movement which, very roughly speaking, was Brazil's revolutionary — in all senses of the word — answer to hippie rock). This live recording of that performance offers a different view of Mutantes from what fans got on Everything. For one thing, the band's original, ethereal singer, Rita Lee, opted out of the comeback and was replaced by the more robust Zelia Duncan; perhaps that's why you'll hear more of the group's pop-operatic influences on this set. What remains unchanged is the weird amalgam Mutantes fans love, one which combines Beatle-y pop, Santana-like Latin rock, bossa nova, and avant garde noise — some songs sound like Hair meets Pink Floyd. Forty years after the band's music first threatened the (then) fascist regime of Brazil, it still has the power to surprise.