David Byrne


David Byrne – Blind

One of those September shows was David Byrne. I’d always regretted that I hadn’t seen Talking Heads before they broke up. Not that I really had the chance but it wasn’t physically impossible. I have felt this way since Stop Making Sense came out. I was in my senior year of high school and a friend and I went to see it at this tiny movie theater in our town up in Maine. Of course back then, I didn’t think I would never get the chance. We left our seats and danced in the aisle; I remember thinking, wow, imagine how great this would be in real life.

I also had thought about going to see David Byrne when he teamed up with St. Vincent for Love This Giant but I couldn’t really swing it. Earlier this year I heard about David Byrne’s tour for his latest album American Utopia. I checked out the schedule but the nearest venues for me were far away and not good timing so I didn’t get a ticket. As luck would have it, he announced a second string of dates with a show just a little farther than my usual haunts and it was even on a weekend! It was a seated venue I hadn’t been to before so I wanted to get a good seat. As soon as pay day rolled around, I managed to get a spot with only two people next to me and no one in front of me in the first tier (up three steps from the floor). It often pays to need only one ticket!

When I got there, the spot was even better than I had expected due to the weird way they configured the stairs and the railing. I had my own little private triangle of dancing space in front of my seat. 10/10, would buy again! But I was worried that people would be duds and not get up and dance and yell at me to sit down. No one was on their feet for the opening band, tUnEyArDs, and there were a lot of bald and gray-haired heads in the crowd. Thankfully those fears were put to rest as soon as the house lights went down and everyone in the packed auditorium was on their feet for the duration.

I don’t really think it’s possible to describe this show adequately. It was magical. David Byrne is a creative genius. It was equal parts theater performance, marching band routine, choreographed dance, light show, and concert. To say nothing of how talented, diverse, and international the band was. Everyone barefoot and in identical gray suits. Six percussionists wearing their instruments like a high school drum line. A keyboard player likewise outfitted. Two back-up singers/dancers, a guitar player, a bass player, and all wireless. Musicians came and went through a beaded backdrop that created three sides of a cube. So much to see and take in. I could have seen it every night for a week and still not have gotten it all.

There were a lot of Talking Heads songs but also plenty from the new album, and songs from his earlier collaborations and projects as well. I don’t think I will ever see anything like it ever again. It easily belongs in my top twenty concerts of all time, maybe even in the top ten. And that’s not just me, my sister and brother-in-law saw the show a few days later in New York and were similarly blown away. My mother’s neighbor saw it up in Maine and described it as “off-the-charts amazing.” In looking for a video to use with this post, I came across one from a woman in London who wrote in the description, “I think this is the best live show I’m ever going to see.” A sentiment echoed by NME.

I hope he had it filmed at some point because even though videos don’t really capture the energy of a live performance, it deserves to be professionally recorded. David Byrne is 66 years old and is not slowing down. I love that he is still as unconventional now as he was in the early days of Talking Heads. And it isn’t just for show, he walks the walk. He had Headcount.org along and urged everyone to vote, and they closed the night with a cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

The tour has moved on to Europe and then I think to New Zealand and Australia so I think you missed your chance if you didn’t get to go. I think it will be hard for him to top this but I’ll definitely keep my ears open for his next project.


David Byrne & St. Vincent – Who

This video comes from the first single off of the album Love This Giant, the collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent. I love that David Byrne is still out there, being himself* (and looking more like David Lynch’s brother with that white hair), and they are taking the show on the road.

BrooklynVegan has been posting a tour diary from Kelly Pratt, who is one of the horn players on tour. It’s pretty interesting and not just because I like the album and am a long time Talking Heads fan. For instance, who knew that marching band experience could ever come in handy off the football field? Band geeks unite! And that nearly the entire band has taken bicycles with them on the road. Is that not the coolest thing ever?! Did you know David Byrne has designed bike racks before? I do think I read that somewhere once but have you seen what this company can do to a bike rack? So freaking awesome!! I want one!

(click the links, you will be rewarded with things like a video of Burning Down the House from the Minneapolis show this past Saturday night.)

I played the French horn in junior high and high school. I don’t think any of us ever thought our time sweating it out in our band uniforms would ever end in anything as cool as touring with David Byrne & St. Vincent. We were mostly thinking that it got us out of study skills or some other lame class no one wanted to take. Our band teacher in New York was adamant that the French horn could only be played properly if sitting down so we never marched with our French horns. We played the euphonium when we marched, which was nice since it was smaller and easier to carry.

The band teacher up in Maine, where we moved halfway through high school, was not so particular about our proper French horn posture so we marched with our horns. To make matters worse, we also had those Buckingham Palace guard style hats. Somewhere at my mother’s house there is a perfectly awful picture of me, in that band uniform, playing the French horn on the football field. I look about 20 pounds heavier too because I had three layers on underneath to try and keep from freezing. Marching band in Maine suuuucked. It sucks everywhere but November in Maine is already winter. You couldn’t be in band the rest of the year unless you did marching band in the fall. Although I did know these two kids who signed up for hunting lessons just because they conflicted with football games and they managed to get away with it. As a recently transplanted New Yorker, that struck me as being the ultimate sign that we were really in the boonies.

* Case in point, he has a new book out too, How Music Works.