Live show review: David Byrne

The third album by The Talking Heads, Fear Of Music, got me hooked on them. I liked everything about that album. The black checker plate cover design, the music that utilized unconventional rhythms, and lyrics that were both political and intelligent without being elitist or snobby. Many critics rate this as one of the best albums of all time and it certainly is a highlight of 1979.

So here we are in 2018, 39 years later, and I am going to the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium to see David Byrne, the front man of The Talking Heads, perform live. I never had the privilege of seeing The Talking Heads live, so I am very excited for this concert.

The stage is bare with the exception of a small desk with one chair at which Mr. Byrnes sits and sings. As the music starts musicians begin to appear from behind a curtain made of chain mail, which creates a very compelling set piece in and of itself as shadows and light play off of it and musicians disappear through it only for others to appear in another spot. There are a total of 12 people, including David Byrne, who move about the stage like a well-disciplined marching band. Percussion is provided by an ever-rotating number of the ensemble with various instruments strapped upon them. Mr. Byrne himself plays guitar on several occasions courtesy of a guitar tech that hands it to him through the chain mail curtain. Everything is wireless which affords this flexibility of movement. There is not drum podium, there are no amp stacks or microphone stands. Minimalism is used to great effect.

Lighting is used sparingly but effectively throughout the evening. During one song a single sizeable light was wheeled out and positioned at the front of the stage. It was the only light for the whole song, but the musicians used it to cast shadows on the chain mail. It was another example of minimalism done right.

I thought it was a well-balanced show with a few standards from his back catalogue interspersed throughout with material from American Utopia. It was magical. It was mystical. It was musical. It was moving. It was good. I waited 39 years to hear "I Zimbra" performed live but it was worth the wait, thank you, Mr. Byrne, for an enchanting evening.

Norman Weatherly | weatheredmusic.ca

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