Byrne burns down the Palace

Via Metromix St. Louis

Meghan Anselm and Jeff Nations

If you are a Talking Heads fan, then you know the quirkiness that is David Byrne. The show on October 18 was everything a Talking Heads show would be, but with full creative takeover by Byrne himself. The description on the Fox Theater’s website voiced songs from David Byrne and Brian Eno. Brian Eno is a writing partner of Byrne’s and produced several of Talking Heads’ albums. The duo has created two albums together, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which is slated for release November 25. Wondering whether or not any Talking Heads numbers would be played, I would come to find that Byrne would not disappoint, playing such songs from his Talking Heads years as “Heaven”, “Take Me To The River”, “Burning Down The House”, “Crosseyed And Painless”, “Life During Wartime”, “I Zimbra” and more including “Air”, a song from 1979’s Fear Of Music that Byrne claimed he hadn’t performed in thirty years.

The set started rather untraditionally. The lights went down; the crowd began cheering as the band walked out. Then David Byrne hit the stage and the crowd stood up, cheering wildly. He picked up his guitar and instead of launching into the first song, he welcomed the crowd and began talking, asking who had attended the Obama rally that afternoon and explaining that he would be performing songs that he and Brian Eno have worked on throughout his entire career. About two or three minutes into his opening speech he assured the crowd, “Eventually we will be playing music tonight, I’m not going to be talking the entire evening” which evoked a good laugh from the audience. From there he thanked everyone for attending and they slid into their first tune, “Strange Overtones”.

The music in this set melded well together. Unless you were familiar with every single song that was played, there was really no discernable difference between Heads material and David Byrne’s solo work with the exception of one or two songs. The band was in tip-top shape. Every song showed extreme polish and was executed flawlessly. Byrne’s voice has not lost a single step. While a lot of musicians from the 70s and 80s tend nowadays to change some, if not most, of their songs to lower keys to make it easier on their voices, Byrne played every song in the same key it was originally written and recorded in, hitting the notes effortlessly, head and eyes pointed slightly toward the ceiling and most of the time with the same expressionless, trance-like face that most fans are used to seeing on him. Between songs, though, Byrne was all smiles and extremely humble, excitedly thanking the crowd.

Byrne looked good for 56-years old with piercing gray hair, beady brown eyes and dressed in stark white clothes. His dance moves resemble the Talking Heads days; the running in place, knees drawn together swivel of the hips... moves that were immortalized during the Stop Making Sense days. The three back-up singers, three dancers, bass player, drummer, keyboardist and percussionist all were dressed head-to-toe in white. A thick curtain lined the back of the stage as the backdrop and it would change color for every song. The coolest shades of blue, pink, mustard yellow, red and green changed with the mood of each song played. Byrne was up to his usual ways of using standard household items and incorporating them into his performance. Byrne and the three dancers sat in rolling office chairs and incorporated them into “Life Is Long”.

With a little help from my friends, I managed to snag third row seats behind the orchestra pit, stage left. I am not usually this lucky. If you haven’t been to the Fox Theater; One, the orchestra pit section is six rows deep with 9 chairs long located dead center of the stage. Two, you should go and experience a concert because the acoustics and lighting theatrics are amazing. The crowd of 45 and up tended to get rowdier as the concert progressed. One man was beginning to tick off security because he would run from his seat 25 rows back, down the center isle to the front of the stage, dance for a second and high-five a few people until he’d spot security where he would quickly hustle back to his seat. Let’s just say four early 20-year-olds were the minority when it came to the age demo at the concert. I had no issue with the 45 year old crowd gyrating and flailing their arms all about. Dancing (that at times looked like dry heaving) and some intense mom dancing going on that was quite visually entertaining. My only beef was with the man in the first, center isle seat, (mind you he either got his ticket from knowing someone or paid the 90 dollars with service fees) standing directly in front of Mr. Byrne himself, who forgot to wear his sleeves to the show. The heart of the Midwest St. Louis you may be, but if you are going to pay top dollar during these struggling economic times for a concert ticket to see one of the greatest all-around musicians of all time, why would you decide to wear your ratty sleeveless t-shirt. Behind him was a man dressed in a business suit and tie.

To sum it up, it is a show I will not soon forget. But I am sure most of Byrne’s fans expected nothing less.

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