david byrne reminds me why he is a legend

I’ve seen David Byrne several times live, and he’s always proven to be worth the ticket price. Last night at the Pabst Theater was no different.

We showed up at the theater at 7:50. The show was to start at 8pm, and when I asked the ticket person when the show starts, she said 8:15. She also said there was no opening act. I can’t even remember the last show I saw with no opening act.

At 8:15, the entire band walked onto the stage, all wearing white, and started to play. As usual, the sound at the Pabst Theater was second to none. Great volume and crystal clear. It’s one of the few places in which I can nearly always understand the lyrics – no matter the band.

There were a couple of things about the show which marked the first time I had seen such a thing at a concert. The first came after the fourth song of the night – “Houses in Motion,” a classic Talking Heads track which rarely gets played live. Up to and through the song, the audience had been seated. But when the song was finished, the crowd gave Byrne and his band a standing ovation, that lasted several minutes. I think David Byrne was a little confused and surprised by this, too. He didn’t really know what to say, and appeared very humbled.

The second was the use of choreographed dancers. I can’t think of a concert I’d ever seen that employed dancers to do nothing but… well, dance. Sure, there’s back-up singers who dance, but never just dancers.

What most impressed me about the dancers was all the subtleties. The were only on stage for a selection of songs, and their dances usually incorporated the entire band, but in a very understated way. Sometimes it was just Byrne stepping back from the mic for a split second while one of the dancers passed between him and the mic. Then he would step back up.

Other times, it was the dancers taking the back-up singers’ mics and replacing them around the stage for the singers to follow them around. The dance was mostly an interpretative, performance art type dance. Sometimes, though rarely, it nearly crossed the line to cheesy, but hardly ever. In fact, the only reason that was even the case was because the male dancer (the other two were female) had a huge broadway-type grin on his face which was a bit too High School Musical for my tastes (but that is definitely a nit-pick).

The song selection was an excellent mix of the new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and classic Talking Heads tracks like “The Great Curve,” “Cross-eyed and Painless,” “I Zimbra,” “Heaven,” “Burning Down the House,” “Live During Wartime” and “Once in a Lifetime.” The versions didn’t really stray from the originals, but the punch was in the energy of the presentation.

As usual, I was able to attract the single most annoying person in the house to sit right behind me. Fortunately, she showed up an hour late for the hour and 15 minute set (45 minutes of encores followed). But when she got there, she used her irritating and sound-penetrating voice to point out everything Byrne was doing on stage and where the lyrics of songs like “Once in a Lifetime” would have been sung if she had written the song. I think I set my record, as it only took me no longer than two songs to whip around and ask her if she’s going to be talking all night. She said “no.”

Anyway, this show was, as usual, unlike any I’d ever seen, and I would recommend to any music fan that you go see this show. There are random clips from various venues lingering around.

This clip actually comes from the Pabst Theater, itself. Curious that the quality isn’t better. But you will get a feel for what was happening on stage. This is “Houses in Motion.”

Here’s “Help Me Somebody,” also from the Pabst. Different angle, though…

And this wasn’t last night, but it’s pretty much what happened during “Once in a Lifetime.”


1 Response to “david byrne reminds me why he is a legend”

  1. October 20, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Rumor has it that Byrne was spotted at the Deerhoof show at Turner Hall later that evening. He reportedly walked past a friend of the person who told me this, and as he walked by, uttered something very un-David Byrne-like. I can’t recall the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of “Great f&^%ing band” or “Sh*t, that’s a great band.” I suppose it’s just as likely that it was some random Milwaukeean who vaguely resembled David Byrne. Whoever it was, it seems he likes Deerhoof.

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