By Adam Sabla
It's been more years than I care to count since I was last within in the halls of the archetypal example of Canadian Modernism that is the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Undergoing renovations, the foyer was crowded with plenty of regulars from my record store days, people my parents' age going to see an old friend, and a smattering of hipsters and indie rock geeks. I was one of the first few to get to my seat, the beverage lineup stocking up before the 7:30 p.m. sharp start-time, and was asked by a cute salt 'n' pepper couple -- one with glasses, the other with hearing aid -- for some help finding their seats on account of diminishing vision.
Everyone clamored for their seats as the house lights dimmed and the stage lights came up revealing the man we all came to see, David Byrne. Exclaiming how lucky we were to have enjoyed such atypical weather that day, Byrne told us we were in for a healthy dose of material he's collaborated on with Brian Eno, joking, though, that we'd "skip through the Bush and Reagan years."
Opening with Strange Overtones from their latest, fantastic collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, Byrne was beaming, his band and backup singers wearing white. From here on in the show was a pinball game of tunes from the various periods of their work together, from the latest, back to the trio of Talking Heads records Eno produced, to My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, and back again. From I Zimbra through Heaven -- in which Byrne's lead soared throughout the final verse -- to Help Me Somebody, which featured an astonishing vocal solo from backup singer Kaissa, and Houses In Motion, during which Byrne busted out a ragged fuzz solo that gave birth to the first of many standing ovations throughout the evening.
With Byrne blasting through a psycho spaghetti-western guitar freak-out in Born Under Punches that served to ramp up the crowd during Crosseyed and Painless, the standouts were many.
I would be a fool to ignore the now unthinkable exclusion of Byrne's three dancers, Steven Reker, Natalie Kuhn, and the exceptional Lily Baldwin. Throughout the evening, Byrne took part in choreography that found Baldwin leaping over his shoulders while he did his idiosyncratic, herky-jerky robot dance, dancers and backups singers rotating mic stands, and employing office chairs with elegant fluidity during Life Is Long.
For the first of three encores, Byrne and band took on Al Green's classic Take Me To The River and The Great Curve. A bow, a jog offstage and intense clapping precipitated Talking Heads staples Air -- complete with the trio of dancers miming with white Stratocasters -- and Burning Down The House, before the band left the stage again, only to return one final time for Everything That Happens, this time with the dancers singing the final chorus.
David Byrne is a lot of things. An artist, a musician, and writer, he possesses the rare gift of being able to bring people together of all ages and backgrounds. The man has great wit, wisdom and humour, and he's created a body of work that stands up after three decades. I left the Queen E. buzzing, this being one of the best nights I've had in recent memory. And walking home I thought to myself, "Man, I hope when I go see one of my favorite bands when I'm older, some kid will help me find my seat."