Byrne, baby, Byrne: Former Talking Heads frontman brings new ‘gospel-folk-electronic’ songs to Allen

Via The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)

John Soeder

"You don't get that stuff with a download!" David Byrne declared following a riveting performance of "I Zimbra," complete with exotic choreography.

Headlining a gig Thursday night at PlayhouseSquare's Allen Theatre, the former Talking Heads singer-guitarist was joined onstage by a four-piece band, three backing vocalists and three dancers.

Before the concert, Byrne reportedly was doing laundry backstage. No wonder the white outfits worn by him and his entourage were spotless. You easily could've mistaken them for members of some extraterrestrial cult, ready to catch a ride on the next comet.

Then again, Byrne's mind-blowing, booty-shaking music itself was a portal to a higher plane.

The relentlessly creative Rock and Roll Hall of Famer showcased tunes from his latest album, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today." It's a reunion with long-lost collaborator Brian Eno, there in spirit for the show, if not in the flesh.

Byrne and Eno have described their new material as "gospel-folk-electronic." The unlikely label fit concert highlights such as the Chiffons-referencing "One Fine Day," the rustic "My Big Nurse" and "I Feel My Stuff," which built to a soulful climax. Other selections evoked the "message music" of the Staple Singers, with a 21st-century spin.

In addition to producing several Talking Heads albums, Eno teamed up with Byrne for a 1981 joint effort, "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts." The latter album got a nod via the unhinged "Help Me Somebody."

Byrne, 56, never has been one to coast on past glories. Nonetheless, the regular set was rounded out with a half-dozen Talking Heads oldies, including a moving take on "Heaven."

As usual, Byrne lost himself in the joyful noise, pecking the air like a rooster with a faraway look in his eyes and mouth agape. His voice was soothing one moment and panic-stricken the next, while his underrated guitar work alternated effortlessly between funky riffs and lyrical solos.

The dancers upped the production value. When they weren't leapfrogging over each other or Byrne, some of their more inscrutable moves seemed to consist of playing charades. In the dark. On Mars.

"Once in a Lifetime" and the relevant-as-ever "Life During Wartime" had fans dancing, too -- in the aisles.

Two encores brought more Talking Heads tunes, including "Burning Down the House" (complete with a botched guitar intro courtesy of Byrne, who laughed off his mistake) and the rarity "Air."

A song off the new album, the cosmic lullaby "Everything That Happens," brought this memorable evening to a close. "Nothing has changed / But nothing's the same," Byrne crooned.

Same as it ever was for a guy who stopped making sense years ago.

SET LIST: "Strange Overtones," "I Zimbra," "One Fine Day," "Help Me Somebody," "Houses in Motion," "My Big Nurse," "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)," "Heaven," "Never Thought" "The River,"
"Crosseyed and Painless," "Life Is Long," "Once in a Lifetime," "Life During Wartime" "I Feel My Stuff"

FIRST ENCORE: "Take Me to the River," "The Great Curve"

SECOND ENCORE: "Air," "Burning Down the House," "Everything That Happens"

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