By Stephanie Leong
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne brought the house down, to say the very least on Saturday night at the Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara.
Known primarily for being the principal songwriter of the new-wave late ’70s, early ’80s band, and for his unusual, eclectic, experimental noise-making and lyrics, Byrne took Santa Barbara by storm as part of his world tour, “Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno,” which focused on material he had crafted alongside Roxy Music’s Brian Eno.
Eno and Byrne first teamed up on the funky, art-rock album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts back in 1981. Since then, Byrne and Eno have reunited and collaborated in forming their new self-proclaimed “electronic gospel” album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which landed in stores [became available online —ed.] this past August.
Byrne and crew performed a set of 15 songs from a bevy of albums throughout his (and Eno’s) career, not including the repeated encores. Byrne was met with a standing ovation upon even entering the stage, and had the audience — which ranged from hipster college students to an older, middle-aged crowd —in a trance throughout the duration of the evening.
The overriding theme of the night was a wild, psychedelic, jangly dance aesthetic, punctuated with a more mild, mid-tempo song every now and then. Byrne really set the tone when he urged everyone to “please get up and dance” if they were so inclined.
He opened with a track —“Strange Overtones — from the new album, and was joined by a group of five to seven spastic backup dancers and singers onstage, all of whom wore matching white pantsuits (including Byrne himself), creating a quirky, wacky vibe that catalyzed a dance party out in the audience.
The highlight songs of the night were powerfully palpable as soon as one could discern the always-familiar Talking Heads sound, as was the case when he performed classics like “Burning Down the House,” “Once in a Lifetime (Same As It Ever Was)” and “Take Me to the River,” among many others that had every member (of all ages) in the audience in a frenzy, as people congregated in the aisles and stood up out of their seats, swaying, clapping and moving frantically.
Byrne’s playful, upbeat beats and infectious rhythms reminded everyone in the venue how they love and have been affected by Talking Heads’ sonic brilliance, and the atmosphere in the air aptly reflected the feelings that their music famously evokes — madness, energy and pure exhilaration.