By Eric R. Danton
It's entirely possible that no one on earth Tuesday had as much fun at work as David Byrne did when he and his band performed at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, Mass.
Dressed clinically all in white — pants, shirts and shoes — Byrne and band belied their ascetic appearance with an outpouring of joy in the music they made and in the spectacle that surrounded it: three backup singers and three dancers who made the show as much a visual experience as a musical one.
This tour is centered around the music Byrne has made over the years with producer and ambient pioneer Brian Eno, including songs from this year's "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," their first collaboration in 27 years.
Those tunes, often lush and sometimes funky, sounded stirring and evocative on stage. They also blended well with older material, including songs he wrote with seminal art-rock band Talking Heads.
Still whip-thin, and occasionally rigid and precise in his movements, Byrne drew from a deep well of soul as he sang on the soaring "One Fine Day" and re-created the "found" vocals originally supplied by snippets of other people's voices on "Help Me Somebody." He often sang with his eyes raised to the back of the theater, as if lost in thought while watching a beautiful sunrise.
The dancers first appeared on the second song, "I Zimbra," whirling and dancing around the stage and engaging the backup singers. They turned "Houses in Motion" into one big choreographed trust exercise, with the dancers — two women and a man — darting between Byrne and the microphone when he paused for breath, and holding the singer up as he leaned backward after a set of lyrics.
Byrne often moved aside while they interpreted his songs through movement, though he occasionally joined in the routines, and his physical reticence dissolved. He and the dancers all sat rotating slowly in swiveling office chairs on "Life is Long," a new song with Byrne on acoustic guitar, and he did a little soft-shoe of his own on Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless" before blasting out a fierce guitar solo.
The expressive audience responded loudest to Talking Heads material, including a few favorites that Byrne saved for later in the set. "Once in a Lifetime" had the crowd on its feet, with a wave of applause when the male dancer leapfrogged over Byrne's head as the singer stood playing guitar. Byrne permitted himself a quick grin afterward, before launching into "Life During Wartime."
After ending the main set with the new song "I Feel My Stuff," he and the band returned with "Take Me to the River" in the first of three encores that also included "Burnin' Down the House" and, to end, the dreamy new song "Everything That Happens."