Review: Iconic rocker Byrne delivers dizzy mix

Via Omaha World-Herald

Niz Proskocil, Omaha World-Herald

It's not often that the Holland Performing Arts Center becomes a dance club.

But that's what the stately concert hall turned into Friday night, courtesy of iconic rocker David Byrne.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer served up a sonic and visual treat for an Omaha crowd that was as diverse as the music presented during his hour-and-45-minute concert.

The former Talking Heads frontman appeared in Omaha as part of his nationwide "Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno" concert tour.

The tour emphasizes Byrne's collaborations over the years with the famed producer and musician. It features music from the pair's latest project, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," as well as Talking Heads material produced by Eno.

Though Eno isn't part of the tour, Byrne had plenty of help.

Joining the singer-guitarist Friday were a four-member band, three backup vocalists and a trio of dancers.

Clad head-to-toe in white, the 11-piece ensemble delivered a dizzying and colorful mix of music, modern dance and performance art for an enthusiastic, in-the-mood-to-groove crowd of 1,206 fans.

Byrne opened with "Strange Overtones," from his new album with Eno, and followed with the Talking Heads song "I Zimbra." During the latter tune, the dancers — two women and a man — twisted, spun and leaped through the air as Byrne walked backward while strumming his guitar.

The fit and trim Byrne, 56, commanded the stage with his singular voice that still can soar.

Throughout the show, he thanked the crowd and at one point told them about how he had spent his day in Omaha.

"I rode my bike across the bridge," he said, referring to the newly opened pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River.

The bike ride must have limbered him up for the show.

During "Life Is Long," Byrne and his dancers sat on office chairs and swiveled around the stage. As he sang "Once in a Lifetime," their herky-jerky yet fluid motions included the male dancer flying over Byrne's head.

"He blurs the line between music and performance art," one concertgoer remarked.

Other highlights of the evening included the wistful "Heaven" and the frenetic "Life During Wartime."

When Byrne ended the main portion of his set with an intense "I Feel My Stuff," a man in the audience shouted, "Ten more songs!"

Byrne and his crew left the stage as the crowd clapped and cheered wildly for his return.

They came back moments later for a generous — and unexpected — five-song encore. In most cities on his latest tour, encores have been limited to about three songs.

But it wasn't only the length of the encore that set the Omaha show apart.

Among the songs he chose was "Air," a rarely-performed Talking Heads tune from the band's 1979 album, "Fear of Music."

In addition, three other classic Heads songs appeared in the encore: "Take Me to the River," "The Great Curve" and "Burning Down the House."

The guy who shouted for "10 more songs" may have only got half his wish, but he certainly left the Holland Center happy.

With the uplifting and exuberant performance that Byrne delivered, it was impossible not to.

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