Misleading as it may be for David Byrne to conduct a "Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour" without Brian Eno, the format at least lends itself to one hell of a set list. Byrne's periodic sessions with Eno have resulted in many of his finest moments, from the pair's prophetic 1981 collaboration, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, to, most notably, the trilogy of 1978-1980 Eno-produced masterpieces by Talking Heads — a run of albums that evolved the band's nervous new wave into muscular, worldly funk.
Though the impetus of the tour is Byrne and Eno's cordial new record, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, it was unsurprisingly the Talking Heads standards that most fired up the crowd Wednesday at the Pabst Theater. After a vociferous, prolonged standing ovation for an early performance of "Houses in Motion," the audience remained on its feet, migrating toward the aisles' designated dancing space. Silver and wiry, but otherwise showing few signs of his 56 years, Byrne did his share of dancing, too, assisted not only by his three backup singers but also by a trio of pretty young dancers with inflexible, histrionic smiles. The trio's golly-gee choreography could have been ripped straight from the High School Musical playbook (save, perhaps, for a bizarre accompaniment that turned "My Big Hands" from Byrne's 1981 solo suite The Catherine Wheel into a sort of balletic re-imagination of the "Thriller" zombie dance).
Despite their artifice, these dancers added panache and undeniable momentum to Byrne's already hard-driving show, and if their chipper demeanors were at odds with the paranoid edge of the Talking Heads songs, well, so was Byrne's new material. Byrne long ago abandoned his art-school fear of music in favor of a boyish wonderment for all of life's marvels. Since Everything That Happens is perhaps his most wide-eyed album yet, it's only fitting that he should promote it with such a cheery tour.