Review: Ex-Talking Head David Byrne still rocks theatrics

Via The Salt Lake Tribune

By Derek P. Jensen

Dressed as an angel, David Byrne is a musical miracle.

On Saturday, in snowy Park City, the iconic art-rocker decked in all white transported a sold-out crowd with an ethereal onslaught dubbed "folk-electronic gospel."

Still boyish at 56, Byrne used his marionette moves and soaring voice to mesmerize as he culled through his 30-year catalogue of intricate tunes. As the swaying hall of graying hipsters proved, it was enough to temporarily forget the worldwide financial crisis, while two U.S. wars linger and an election looms.

For nearly two hours, including three encores, Byrne bounced between his collaborations with producer Brian Eno, including a healthy dose from the duo's first extended project in 27 years: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Backing the Spartan stage, a large screen changed colors to the mood of the music. A midnight blue for "One Fine Day" morphed for the gorgeous "Houses In Motion," then again for "Help Me Somebody" from Eno and Byrnes' under-appreciated 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

The former Talking Head also showed range, from the Space-Age "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks) and the contemplative "My Big Nurse" to the conversational crowd-pleaser "Heaven."
Byrne's 11-member outfit — anchored by two percussionists, a keyboard player and three backup singers — included three dancers whose choreography and sex appeal often stole the show. The barefoot trio slinked and sweated across the Eccles Center stage, sometimes rendering the music background for their modern-dance performance.

But because the magnetic Byrne joined in — he still does his absurdist running-in-place robot, cat-like pivots and even a song played while swiveling slow motion in a chair — the theatrics worked.
With his shock-white hair and outfit to match, Byrne is a smiling scientist who has found his cure in art. Like a cross between Andy Warhol and "Doc" from "Back to the Future," he is both measured and manic — somehow a reassuring sight.

Not just keyboard-fueled pop, the Byrne-Eno mold mixes soul singing, African rhythm and fiendish guitar feedback into something modern and all their own. Known for eclecticism, he even did the score for the second season of the polygamy-themed HBO series Big Love.

Still, many came Saturday for some Talking Heads staples. A one-two punch of "Once in a Lifetime" and "Life During Wartime" proved the confining theater seats were no match for a crowd determined to dance.

Buoyed by the politically attuned throng, Byrne also drew cheers when he announced "that day could be Nov. 4" moments after singing the lyric "everything can change that one fine day."

More Heads hits, including the sing-a-long "Take Me to the River" and "Burning Down the House" gave the encores muscle. But it was the texture from new tunes "Home" and "Everything That Happens" that gave the ending heft.

Anyone who believes Byrne's best days are behind him should see this tour. When the art-rocker's wry smile repeats "Same as it ever was," you realize that for this musical maverick, remarkably, it is true.

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