It was a small but curious crowd that turned out to see the Brazilian psych-rock pioneers, who re-formed in 2006 following a hiatus of more than 30 years. With such a long stretch of inactivity, there was no sense of nostalgia as most fans were seeing Os Mutantes live for the first time, and some were probably only familiar with the band’s noted influence on artists such as Kurt Cobain, Beck and David Byrne.
Lone founding member Sergio Dias led the six-piece group through a 90-minute set filled with new songs and tunes dating to the late ’60s. The music defied any definitive characterization, as psychedelic guitar riffs were underlined with Brazilian Tropicália, Beatle-esque pop, freak folk, sci-fi doo-wop, samba and bossa nova.
Time hasn’t diluted lost classics such as “Bat Macumba,” “Top Top” and “A Hora E A Vez Do Cabelo Nascer,” which remain as fun and playful as they did 40 years ago with their upbeat rhythms, screaming guitars and Portuguese lyrics. Dias shared vocal duties with the animated Esméria Bulgari and fellow guitarist Vitor Trida, who whether on their own or sharing three-part harmonies, gave each song another layer of sound to build around.
The 62-year-old Dias, who moved to Las Vegas in 2007, repeatedly gushed about his new hometown, the inspiration behind new track “The Dream Is Gone,” a mournfully beautiful song about foreclosures. It was one of six songs played from the recently released Fool Metal Jack, including the title track, an anti-war song with a muddy bass riff that could have come from Les Claypool.
Paul McCartney’s influence on Dias was especially evident on “Balada Do Louco,” a piano-driven mid-tempo ditty that felt like a Brazilian “Hey Jude,” while “Ando Meio Desligado” (I Feel A Little Spaced Out) had a late-’60s go-go vibe before transitioning into a full-blown freak-out with Dias performing his wildest guitar solo of the night. Even more than 40 years after their inception, Os Mutantes has retained a spirit of exploration that has allowed them to remain timeless. ★★★★☆