David Byrne (Greek Theater)
By Phil Gallo
More perceptible now than three decades ago, Brian Eno drew out tension in the Talking Heads' music in a painterly fashion, locking in a base and then introducing tangents that sprang forth in rhythms, melody lines and lyrics. Those tangential elements, which ultimately completed the songs via density, were considerably evident when paired Friday at the Greek with the sparser material Eno and David Byrne have recently recorded. Only a few songs from the new collection "Everything that Happens will Happen Today" boast Talking Heads' level of complexity; Byrne, through movement and a tight ensemble, made up the difference.
Most of the new material is far less multidimensional than the featured Talking Heads songs from "Remain in Light" and "Fear of Music," albums that connected the New Wave act with African rhythms, dance beats and jagged guitar lines while Byrne continued to sing about displacement. Long an artist known for his adventurous ways, Byrne has, for this project, placed the experimentation in the distribution method rather than the music: "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" is available only as a download from a website named after the album.
Byrne settles into a groove here — and it could be country, James Brown funk, a languid electronic beat or a neo-folk-rocker — and sticks with it, Eno's touches often difficult to discern. The 6½- minute "I Feel My Stuff" is the exception to the rule.
Throughout the night, the presence of another Eno collaborator was felt — guitarist Robert Fripp. Byrne's electric guitar work has gone sustain-heavy with liberal doses of distortion, trademarks of the Fripp sound, and he acquits himself rather well in concert. The Eno-Fripp influence extended to one of the evening's sharpest perfs, "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)," a tune from "Catherine Wheel," the Twyla Tharp dance piece for which Byrne composed the music. (Eno is not traveling with the band, whose tour continues to be expanded and is expected to secure a New York date in early November).
Byrne and his band all wear white, and they are joined by three dancers who enhance the lightness of the presentation, darting around the mostly stationary ensemble, interacting with Byrne and the backup singers. Having everyone perform "Life Is Long" in office chairs was a smile-inducer; on "Once in a Lifetime," the dancers assumed the movement of marionettes, which partnered well with Byrne's delivery devoid of the original's rage.