By Nan Chalat-Noaker
It is good thing Park City High School's new wing was built to meet rigorous seismic codes because the rafters got a good shaking Saturday night.
David Byrne kicked off the Eccles Center auditorium's new season by bringing a sold out crowd to its feet and keeping them there for most of the non-stop, two-hour show.
From the number of lip-synchers in the crowd it was obvious many had turned out to see the former Talking Heads lead singer and songwriter reprise his unique blend of gospel/techno rock. And he did. But he also took his listeners to some new places, delivering several cuts that have only recently been released on the Internet "but will be appearing in the material world soon," Byrne explained.
The recent work is the result of a reunion with his old Talking Heads collaborator Brian Eno, who Byrne credited throughout the evening. "Strange Overtones," one of the songs in the newest collection entitledEverything That Happens Will Happen Today echoed their earlier work but with more depth, both musically and lyrically.
Like his signature voice, Byrne has an unmistakable style onstage. In blinding-white shirt, pants and shoes, lean and tall with white-gray hair standing up on end, his presence was riveting and constant from the first chord to the last.
As an artist, Byrne has hardly kept his politics a secret over the years. The Talking Heads were frequent critics of society's excesses and Byrne couldn't resist a mischievous coda to the lyric "Everything can change, one fine day" adding "That day could be Nov. 4." The crowd, already on its feet, roared in approval.
Byrne has not been idle during the Talking Heads' hiatus. The theme music behind HBO's popular serial about polygamy, Big Love, was written by Byrne and those who listen carefully to the trailer for the upcoming Oliver Stone movie, "W.," will recognize the familiar Byrne refrain "And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" Byrne brought down the house Saturday with a no-holds-barred version of that familiar anthem.
There was an unexpected bonus that came with the concert tickets -- Byrne's touring company includes three acrobatic dancers, Lily Baldwin, Natalie Kuhn and Steven Reker who enhanced Byrne's own carefully choreographed moves. Their abstract interpretations of the music and lyrics served as a reminder of Byrne's wide-ranging artistic talents.
We may never know exactly how the Park City Performing Arts Foundation landed Byrne as the show is not listed on his official website. But the sold-out crowd and wild audience reception must have been a big morale booster for the nonprofit that, like every arts group around the country, is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
In her customary introduction to the performance, foundation director Teri Orr referred to the tough times saying the smaller upcoming season is a direct result of fewer sponsors. She made a special plea for potential donors to support the Eccles Center's popular Pillow Theater that has been temporarily suspended due to lack of funding. Perhaps David Byrne's energy unleashed a few new patrons of the arts.
After an extended encore that could be heard reverberating through the auditorium's brick walls the crowd reluctantly filed out into the snowy evening.