Friday, May 1, 2009



By Bad Tempered Zombie

David Byrne
Jack Singer Concert Hall
February 23/09

David Byrne is still inventive, still relevant, still has incredible pipes, and I would hazard to guess that he is still the man whom many heterosexual men crush on.

We had seats up in the nosebleeds of the second balcony for the David Byrne concert last night, but they turned out to provide a rather fabulous overview of the spectacle that ultimately unfolded on the stage. Dressed from head to toe in stark white, including Mr Byrne's fabulous shock of hair, the eleven band members, including three dancers, put on a gloriously avant-garde extravaganza, which was joyously received by the packed house.

The show kicked off with a funky rendition of the latest David Byrne/Brian Eno single Strange Overtones, and the menu for the night featured selections from the current Byrne/Eno collaboration, as well as drawing from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and of course from those incredible Talking Heads albums.

Given David Byrne's senior statesman of music status, I have to admit I was rather expecting a singer-songwriter evening, but nothing could have been further from reality. This was a SHOW, a highly choreographed mélange of music and theatre and experimental ballet, strange and beautiful. For a musical concert, especially one in monochrome, it was an intensely visual experience. There was always something intriguing happening on stage, whether it was the dance during Life is Long which had the three dancers and Byrne rolling about on office chairs, a finale with everyone on stage donning a white tutu, or that incredible moment during Once in a Lifetime when the boy dancer leap-frogged over David Byrne's head, and all the while Byrne paused not his singing and guitar playing.

Although visually David Byrne could easily have passed as a cult leader, dressed all in white as he was and with that commanding presence of his, he was anything but autocratic during the performance. Often, he would blend in with the dancers or the singers and mimic their movements, or fade to the background of the stage while the dancers took over centre stage.

The audience was dancing gleefully in the aisles during the entire second half of the performance and joyfully clapping along with all their favourite Talking Heads numbers. I'm pretty certain that if David Byrne had offered up kool-aid and a chance to ascend to the mother ship, at least 75% of the audience would have taken a drink. Never before have I seen three encores at a concert. I expect it will be a long while before I do again.

No comments: