Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Once in a Lifetime sums it up

David Byrne
Jack Singer Concert Hall, Feb 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 melange 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.

Here's some concert footage of Once in a Lifetime that somebody else took, but which is a good representation of what we experienced last night. Magnify it a thousand-fold in awesomeness and you get the picture.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

A weekend with the Martha's and then David Byrne? What an enchanted life you lead.

S.M. Elliott said...

Sounds great...totally envious!
When I was in high school "Sugar on My Tongue" was kind of the anthem for us drama nerds. I'm still not entirely sure why.

John Mutford said...

I'm jealous of you what once, twice a week now?

Anonymous said...

i'm so glad you were able to get out to a concert to celebrate my birthday

Sean Wraight said...

I read an article recently that posited that David Byrne has lost his relevancy. Quite honestly I was a little miffed with that assessment but thoroughly bolstered by yours. "Same as he ever was", the guy is a music god. So glad that you got to witness him up close and personal. (Well certainly closer than me at least. ;)

Were you able to dance in the balcony at least? Excellent, excellent review Barb. It was the next best thing to being there.

Tell me though... What was your song highlight?


Gifted Typist said...

Love DB, been crushing on him since forevaaaaa. The guy is a intellectual as well as a performing artist. He's all PoMo and all that.

I cited him a few times just to have him there in my biblio...

Great review. Lucky you.

mister anchovy said...

I bet it was a fabulous show. I'm reminded of a road-trip I took across country, back in 83, driving very fast in the mountains with Talking Heads BLASTING. I think I blew out my speakers that trip.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Exhausted life would be a more accurate description, Dr M, but we can sleep when we are dead. Right?

I love high school drama nerds, SME! They are one of the finest types of nerd there is.

Same as it ever was, John. But seriously, there are certainly perks to living in a place with insane traffic issues and gang violence.

Had it not been your birthday, I would certainly have stayed home and gone to bed early, Kelly. I hope you celebrated as well!

I'm with you on this, Sean. I think, if anything, David Byrne is even more relevant than he used to be.
The balconies had a pretty steep pitch, so I contented myself with chair dancing, although not the cool rolling office chair dancing that they did on-stage.
There were so many great songs performed. I think I would narrow my highlight song to either Life During Wartime, or the finale, Take Me to the River, which was really stirring.

He really is all that, Gifted. I feel quite blessed that I was able to make that concert.
Nice touch citing him in your bibliography!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Missed you there, Mr Anchovy. What a great image that conjures up! If you are going to crash in the mountains, you might as well be listening to Talking Heads really loud. I'd love to hear more about that trip.

Deb said...

I was really checking out the one woman in the front row dancing like a crazy lady. Man, I wish I was her.

I agree...what an amazing life you have.

I've been getting caught up here (how wonderful that you met Allison!).

Allison said...

I've been on a Talking Heads kick this past while, so I am glad to here that Byrne has not lost his touch. Not that I thought he had.

I can't get the image of him in all white dancing onstage out of my head though. :)

Great review!

glassmeow said...

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...

stesso di esso era mai

I had an Italian professor (really a drop dead gorgeous film studies grad student who happened to be a native speaker) who had us translate Talking Heads lyrics into Italian on his quizzes.

It's much easier with Babelfish

glassmeow said...

'coz if you plug it back in 'backwards', you get some really strange things:

same of it was never

bloody awful poetry said...

Well yeah. For once I am not jealous, because being as uh, young, as I am, the awesomeness of David Byrne is totally lost on me. But if you say he is awesome, therefore he is awesome, and I shall force myself to be appropriately envious.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Come to think of it, there was a crazy dancing lady in the front row of the concert we were at too, Deb. Maybe she is with the tour.
It was GREAT to meet Allison, although it certainly felt like I have known her for a long time.

I'll bet people were just clamoring to get into that class, Glassmeow. Who wouldn't be? Now I am curious to hear Psycho Killer sung in Italian though.

Never force your envy, BAP. Instead I shall do my darndest to earn it for real.

glassmeow said...

I'd like to hear that too!

Can't help with that but I do have Luciano Ligabue's take on "It's The End Of The World As We Know It ...And I Feel Fine" - his is "A Che Ora e La Fine Del Mondo?" e-mail me where to send it and it's yours on cd :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

How intriguing, Glassmeow! Thanks for the offer, I'll get in touch with you.

justacoolcat said...

Awesome! Byrne is coming here too, but I'll be out of town. :-(

Barbara Bruederlin said...

My sympathies, JustA, the same thing is happening here when we go out of town next month - all sorts of great musicians are coming in to fill the void.

Dale said...

Lucky you! I'm so glad David filled up your senses! I keep meaning to blog about the dream I had about him over the Christmas holidays. Don't worry, you'd still respect him.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

hahaha Dale, now my mind is racing!