By Paul Cashmere
David Byrne has always been music by innovation. The Talking Heads were equal parts rock and art and their lead singer has continued that philosophy. In American Utopia, Byrne has transformed the band into the show. This show is as visually stunning as the songs themselves.
Let me explain … at a rock concert you usually get the lead singer up the front, the drummer down the back and the guitarists on either side, with maybe some keyboards to the back at the left, brass to the back at the right and a few backing singers barely in view. It…Is…Static.
With the American Utopia tour Byrne has broken that mould and reinvented the wheel. The cliché rock band is thrown out the door. Background becomes foreground and Byrne himself blends into the complete dynamic.
Visually that is confronting for real music fans. While it feels like the show is being performed to backing tapes or a band hidden behind the scene, every sound you hear is coming from the people you see on stage. That sparse effect in itself confronts the brain but luckily, David explains the brain in the very first song ‘Here’.
The show revolves around Byrne’s latest musical creation ‘American Utopia’. As a piece of work, it is the most Talking Heads sounding solo album David Byrne has ever made. That allows David to blend the present with the past jumping back decades and back to the future seamlessly.
The Talking Heads material isn’t necessarily the obvious material. There was no ‘Swamp’ or their cover of ‘Take Me To The River’. The Talking Heads songs were chosen to fit the dialogue of the new album so songs like ‘Blind’ and ‘Slippery People’ has more relevance to this show than an ‘And She Was’. Mind you, ‘Life During Wartime’ would have been a welcome addition (but we can’t have everything).
Only Byrne, Bowie, Roger Waters and Alice Cooper have ever delivered a show so beautifully positioned between theatre and rock. This is easily at the pointy end of ‘show of the year’ status.
David Byrne setlist, Melbourne, 2018
Here (from American Utopia, 2018)
Lazy (from Grown Backwards, 2004)
I Zimbra (from Talking Heads, Fear of Music, 1979)
Slippery People (from Talking Heads, Speaking In Tongues, 1983)
I Should Watch TV (from Love This Giant, 2014)
Dog’s Mind (from American Utopia, 2018)
Everybody’s Coming to My House (from American Utopia, 2018)
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (from Talking Heads, Speaking In Tongues, 1983)
Once in a Lifetime (from Talking Heads, Remain In Light, 1980)
Doing the Right Thing (from American Utopia, 2018)
Toe Jam (from Brighton Port Authority, I Think We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat, 2009)
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (from Talking Heads, Remain In Light, 1980)
I Dance Like This (from American Utopia, 2018)
Bullet (from American Utopia, 2018)
Gasoline and Dirty Sheets (from American Utopia, 2018)
Blind (from Talking Heads, Naked, 1988)
Burning Down the House (from Talking Heads, Speaking In Tongues, 1983)
Road to Nowhere (from Talking Heads, Little Creatures, 1985)
The Great Curve (from Talking Heads, Remain In Light, 1980)
Hell You Talmbout (Janelle Monáe cover)
David Byrne remaining dates
25 November, Adelaide, Entertainment Centre Theatre