By Jeff Miers
The creative partnership discovered, nurtured, abandoned, and eventually rekindled between David Byrne and Brian Eno has yielded some of the most intriguing, passionate and creative pop music of the past three decades.
On Friday, before a sold-out house in the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, that partnership was shared and celebrated with a crowd that gave every indication of being grateful for its existence.
Byrne and Eno made three records together with Talking Heads, collaborated on the way-ahead-of-its-time My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album, and then ended a long drought by regrouping last year to make a record more than equal to the high-water mark set by their previous ventures, the lovelyEverything That Happens Will Happen Today. Byrne, backed by a stellar four-piece band, three harmony vocalists, and a trio of dancers who appeared at various points to create loose, good-natured, and creative choreography, played bits of all his work with Eno.
The crowd responded with numerous standing ovations, danced in the aisles, brought the band back for three encores, and seemed to have made a big impact on the musicians themselves.
Opening with the downright ominous, but decidedly funky “Strange Overtones,” the first of many of the evening’s “Everything That Happens . . .” selections, Byrne made clear the connections between current and past successes by moving directly into a burning “I Zimbra,” a Talking Heads piece that blended African polyrhythms with progressive bits of Steve Reich-like polyphony. The piece still sounds ahead of its time, and moved with ease into the dulcet, pop-tropicalia of the new “One Fine Day.”
Many Talking Heads tunes made the cut for the set list, but this was no oldies show, no nostalgia act. “Houses In Motion” and “Cross-eyed and Painless,” for example, were never really “hits” per se, but able representatives of the Byrne/Eno/Heads ethic — stuttering rhythms, huge but unexpected hooks, abstract but incisive lyric imagery, and a groove that just never quits. Though harmonically uncluttered, the songs suggest vast movement, and they were played wonderfully.
Folks who might’ve come just to hear “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House” and “Life During Wartime” did not leave disappointed. The new music Byrne played stood on common ground with the older stuff, and more often that not, it cut even deeper.
If you were there on Friday, well, good luck trying to forget this show. It was truly special.