David Byrne at the Wang

W wanted to catch David Byrne’s “Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour”, but as he wasn’t playing in NYC proper she decided to see him in Boston instead of NJ. It’s a bit odd, and no doubt a sign of the shifting times, that Byrne is touring his newest album before it even hits stores. The album, called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, is a collaboration with Brian Eno who apparently wrote all the music while Byrne supplied the vocal lines, lyrics, and vocals, and it’s been up as a stream on Byrne’s website for a while now. I’m not a huge Talking Heads fan and even less so of Byrne’s solo stuff, but the album is enjoyable (W loves it).

As for the concert, the audience was a weird mix of middle-aged folk who were unashamed of their convulsive dance moves, fratty kids, and hipsters. The Wikipedia entry on the tour has loads of info including the setlist. This non-review at RollingStone.com includes a bit more info as well.

As with most live music, I definitely enjoyed the show. The audience was definitely most responsive to old classics, like “Heaven” and “Once in a Lifetime”, and I was reminded of how great those songs are (particularly “Life in Wartime” which is just brilliant, not to mention chilling). But with the various permutations of three dancers (choreographed by three different groups), three backup singers (who also joined in on the dancing occasionally), two drummers, a keyboardist, a bassist, and Byrne on guitar and vocals, not to mention the well-designed lighting, there was enough variety to keep even those with short attention spans engaged throughout.

Of the people I’ve talked to I’m the only one who liked the choreography at all. At first I thought I was going to hate it, though, due to its obvious cheesiness and the dancers’ looseness. But as it became apparent the dancers were well trained and not just picked off of the street, and as it became clearer that the cheesiness and goofiness were intentional and tongue in cheek, I enjoyed the quirkiness much more and found the choreography and its delivery to be appropriate to Byrne’s general demeanor. It was also rarely distracting and much better integrated into the overall onstage ensemble than some other shows I’ve seen (e.g. the Pet Shop Boys’ last tour). There were some nice moments near the end when Byrne joined in the dancing, and the closer, “Burning Down the House”, had the audience in various states of ecstacy.

One complaint I had was that the vocals were mixed to accentuate Byrne’s already shouty delivery, which became more and more grating over time. But all in all it was a good show and made me want to watch the Stop Making Sense DVD again. Only a few dates left for this tour, though, and one thing you’ll be missing out on if you see them is the the Halloween atmosphere we enjoyed in Boston, which seemed nicely apropos for Byrne’s music as well.

One response to “David Byrne at the Wang

  1. Pingback: Tara Donovan at the ICA « Nine Dots Boston: Boston Arts Outside The Box

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