Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, November 29, 2008

To David Byrne at UB's Center for the Arts last night. It's interesting to think about where Byrne has been, and what he has become, because in a funny way it's a journey pretty much everyone in the hall has been on too. Back in 1977 he was gawky and peculiar, and we identified with that, because we were too. Somewhere along the way geek chic came into vogue, and Byrne was in the vanguard-- a great deal of the visual presentation that made Talking Heads so exciting was that Byrne was obviously cool, even though he seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable in that role. When he sang, "Air can hurt you too," he was telling us that he was as uncomfortable in his environment as we were, and, of course, the Big Suit was always all about being awkward, and dealing with it.

That Byrne is no longer in evidence, and hasn't been for a long time. The musician we saw last night fronted an eight-piece ensemble: Bass, keyboards, drums, congas and percussion, Byrne on guitar, three singers and three dancers. There was some doubling on guitar, and the dancers (two women and a man) came in on some occasional vocals. The troupe was attired completely in white, but each was dressed differently; Byrne himself was trim in white shirt, slacks and bucks. His stage moves are choreographed and well-thought out, but performed with an obvious sense of enjoyment. He looks terrific, and is in great voice. The show is billed as "Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno", which is more or less accurate-- they don't play anything from "Talking Heads 77", and the only post-Eno Talking Heads number was "Burning Down the House", during an encore. I was happy to hear "My Big Hands" from "The Catherine Wheel", and the newer material was so good that I'd have been pleased to have heard-- and seen, it was a very visual production-- more. Interestingly, the Talking Heads material seemed to emphasize "Fear of Music", a side that I've always felt is somewhat overlooked. Part of the reason for that may be that it's always sounded a little botched in the mix. In this context, with a a supple, swinging rhythm section churning it out these numbers sounded great, as did, of course, the songs from "Remain in Light". After all these years "Once in a Lifetime" still grabs me.

As good as Byrne looked, the audience didn't, which set up a kind of cognitive dissonance for me. Lately at concerts it seems to me that everyone who is my age looks old, and if they don't, I do. This crowd made the "Art of Jazz" audiences look great-- actually, even the audience at Blue Oyster Cult looked better, or at least more authentic. I looked around as the band performed "Life During Wartime" and was disturbed. This was a big auditorium full of people with 401(k)'s that are worth about as much as that old Talking Heads tour shirt in the attic right now, singing along with one of American Rock'n'Roll's greatest paranoid compositions. In some ways rock, which used to be music about youth, has become a form that is about nostalgia instead, but that isn't rock's fault, or Byrne's fault either. He is committed and engaged in the work he is doing, and I'm looking forward to reading about what he has to say about Buffalo in his journal.

It does not appear that a Sydney show has been booked yet, but if I lived in the Antipodes I'd keep February open.

| Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?