Review: David Byrne at Manchester Arena

Via Manchester Evening News

Photo by Jody Rogac

By Gareth Tidman

He promised something ambitious.

In fact, we’re told the tour that arrives in Manchester tonight is David Byrne’s most ambitious project since his seminal early Eighties concert film, ‘Stop Making Sense’.

And when someone with the pedigree of the former Talking Heads frontman makes so bold a pledge, the world takes notice.

‘Stop Talking Sense’ is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock concert films - but that was a long 34 years ago.

Few though will have arrived at the Arena tonight though fearing anti-climax.

The American Utopian tour is surely the most talked about musical event of the moment – and you don’t generate that level of interest with empty promises or by living on past glories.

'The show is a stunning, pulsating, cacophony of sound, movement and performance that threatens to overwhelm the senses before trampling right over them'

The 134-date marathon has already passed through Manchester once, stopping off at the more intimate Apollo.

And the reviews have been little short of sensational; one describing it as a ‘kaleidoscopically entrancing spectacle of music, dance, and theatre’, another as ‘one of the most mind-blowingly meticulous and awe-inspiring productions you could ever hope to see’.

And the NME - who you’d expect to know a thing or two about these things - said it may just be ‘the best live show of all time’.

The show is a stunning, pulsating, cacophony of sound, movement and performance that threatens to overwhelm the senses before trampling right over them.

The entire 120 minutes are immaculately choreographed, a barefooted Byrne leading a 12-piece band as they frantically weave around a stage devoid with any amps, sound monitors, drum kits or other unnecessary rock clutter.

The only instruments used are carried by the performers, and all the music is played live with no backing tapes.

Many of the songs you won’t know, unless you’re an obsessive, taken as they from a 42-year career, which began when Talking Heads were an underground new wave outfit in the Big Apple.

Greeted most emphatically though are the big-hitters – Once in a Lifetime, Burning Down the House, Road to Nowhere – produced during the band’s commercial peak when their willingness to experiment with film paid dividends and a newly-born MTV in need of videos to fill its schedules, turned them into unwittingly international superstars.

The orderliness of the chaos on stage gives the event a strange serenity, and at times feels like we are watching a gig in the afterlife.

But is it even a gig? Or could it better be described as art, performance or theatre?

Whatever, it’s author continues to baffle, challenge and bewilder, with an ambition that’s there for all to see.

December Radio David Byrne Presents: Eclectic for the Holidays

More Info