Once in a lifetime, you get to see a concert where the band performs three separate encore sets. Where the fanbase is so fanatical that the crowd gives the musicians a standing ovation after only their fifth song of the night.
Wednesday night at The Grand was that rare occasion, as legendary new wave rocker David Byrne and his 10-piece accompaniment of drummers, guitarists, background singers and interpretive dancers owned the place.
The 56-year-old musician stopped in Wilmington on his “Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour,” promoting his latest Eno collaboration (their first in nearly 30 years), “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.”
The former Talking Heads frontman started off the evening by greeting the sell-out crowd of over 1,100 with a simple hello, thank you and some wit.
“Good evening everyone, thank you for coming out tonight,” the 56-year-old icon announced with a Scottish inflection. Detailing what the band had in store, he mused, “That’s the menu for this evening. I’ll be your server; my name is David. Here we go.”
With a 1-2-3 direction from Byrne, the three background singers, two drummers, bassist and keyboardist started into “Strange Overtones,” off the “Everything That Happens” album. The crowd attentively sat and watched the ensemble, dressed head-to-toe in white, swaying back and forth.
After four songs, the three dancers (one male, two female) joined the group on-stage and began dancing to the tribal drum beats, as Byrne began to play a Talking Heads favorite, “Houses in Motion.”
Byrne’s six-foot-plus frame glided along the stage with ease as he sang and strummed. With the drums pounding behind him, he looked like a proud peacock strutting his stuff, that white tuft of hair leading the way.
At the conclusion of the seven-minute cut came the standing ovation, which even surprised Byrne himself, as he stepped back from the mic, laughed, looked around and mouthed the word, “Wow.”
From there, the group performed a few more Talking Heads numbers, like “My Big Hands,” complete with a Twyla Tharp choreographed dance number. And of course came the Byrne/Eno collabs, like “My Big Nurse” and “Heaven.”
Feeling the crowd had gotten the most joy out of the Talking Heads faves from the early ‘80s, the band returned to what his middle-aged fans (the majority of the crowd) were thirsting for.
“And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful house!/And you may tell yourself/This is not my beautiful wife,” Byrne bellowed, singing the chorus to “Once in a Lifetime,” quite possibly his most recognizable of his Eno collabs.
“Same as it ever was!” the crowd yelled back, reciting the sort of mid-life crisis anthem as if no truer words had ever been uttered. At this point though, young, middle-aged or old, the entire house was on its feet.
The dancers were all over the place, seemingly feeding off the crowd’s energy. The male dancer, who had been leap-frogging the female dancers, then completely leapt over Byrne as he played. Again, Byrne mouthed, “Wow.”
Next up would be “Life During Wartime,” in which the lyric, “No time for dancing or lovey dovey,” was completely ignored by the audience. Many of those who had earlier been sitting now twirled in the aisles and in front of the stage.
Having played for an hour and 20 minutes, the band quickly said their good-byes, but came right back on stage for Encore 1, which included “Take Me to the River,” then Encore 2, which included, “Burnin’ Down the House”
The title seemed to sum up the evening in the most perfect way, The Grand now hotter than hell, with the band sweating as proof. It also felt like the most appropriate way to end the show, but Encore 3 was on tap.
“Everything That Happens,” the somewhat melancholy title track from Byrne’s latest effort, would be the final capper to what was quite the entertaining evening, leaving the crowd looking like they’d been dipped in the water.