By Jon Ferguson
David Byrne doesn't break out The Big Suit, but his current tour is sure to thrill fans of the Talking Heads, one of rock music's seminal bands.
Byrne decided to celebrate his recent album with Brian Eno, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," by touring behind the songs he and Eno have collaborated on during their careers.
That includes three Talking Heads' albums ("Fear of Music," "More Songs About Buildings and Food" and "Remain in Light"), "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" and the new album.
During a Nov. 8 show at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Byrne, who has never been in better voice, and his band blended songs from those albums into a spellbinding show that was sonically and visually dazzling.
He will bring the not-to-be-missed show to the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York on Dec. 4.
Byrne, who played guitar, and his talented band (two drummers, bass, keyboards and three backup singers) was compact but powerful. Always something of a performance artist, Byrne had all of the musicians dressed in white and incorporated three modern dancers, also dressed in white, into the show's fabric. The staging, which was obviously carefully conceived, was both witty and fun.
Byrne opened with "Strange Overtones," a hauntingly beautiful song from his new album, and then drove the crowd to its feet with the staccato rhythms of "I Zimbra," a track from "Fear of Music."
He settled things down with another song from "Everything Happens" and followed that with "Help Me Somebody," a cut from "Bush of Ghosts." He and his band then pushed the pedal to the metal and went for broke as they roared through a revelatory version of "Houses in Motion" from "Remain in Light," the Talking Heads' best album.
The crowd at the Tower erupted in a spasm of sound as they rose to their feet and stayed there as Byrne and his band basked in the wash of applause.
And so it went the entire night as Byrne switched between new songs and Talking Heads material. The contrast couldn't have been stronger, as his new tunes are fairly compact pop songs, all of which were beautifully sung, and the funkier Heads' material was more raucous, more rhythmic, more get-out-of-your-seats-and-dance.
Byrne, however, deftly wove it all together into a seamless piece of musical performance art.
He clearly enjoyed playing the Talking Heads songs, which included "Take Me to the River," "Heaven," "Air," "Life During Wartime," "Once in a Lifetime" and "The Great Curve."
He had such a great time that he broke from the show's conceptual conceit and performed a scorching version of "Burning Down the House" as the penultimate song of the evening before ending with the new album's title cut.
"Burning Down the House," of course, is on the album "Speaking in Tongues," which Brian Eno had nothing to do with.
But how could Byrne not play that song?