By Scott Murphy
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne sold his theatrical brand of rock 'n' roll to an energetic Red Butte Garden crowd on Sunday night.
The 100-minute show, which included four encores, had the sold-out house on its feet and dancing for the concert's duration. The night was a showcase for Byrne's voice and his funky, bouncy guitar riffs, which led his band -- which included a bass and a keyboard player and two drummers -- through synth-heavy dance grooves.
Concertgoers refused to let Byrne and his entourage of 10 singers and dancers leave before receiving a fourth and final encore of "Everything That Happens," the title track for a joint project between Byrne and legendary producer Brian Eno that Byrne is touring behind.
Although each of Byrne's 16 songs went over well, the crowd was especially poised for Talking Heads classics including "Cross-eyed and Painless," "Once In a Lifetime" and "Heaven." And when the first notes of the mid-'80s hit "Burning Down the House" started during an encore, the crowd exploded in recognition.
Byrne, whose show kicked-off at 8:40 p.m. in contrast to Red Butte's standard 7 p.m. start, apparently had a good reason for wanting to play in the dark. His band's white suits and choreography would have lost impact in the summer evening light.
The wacky, artsy dancing was strong all night, especially when Byrne joined in, and was most effective during "One Fine Day" and "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)." Byrne, as demonstrated in multiple '80s Talking Heads videos, has a great knack for funny movements, and when dancers moved Byrne into place behind the microphone, it was hilarious.
There's a fine line, in the rock world, between having a signature sound and having songs that sound alike, but the Sunday concert proved once again that Byrne has earned its own place in the American soundscape. It was the singer's second pass through Utah in the past 12 months, and judging by the screaming after each successive encore Sunday, Byrne could pull off a Beehive State hat trick with no complaints.
Bottom line » Theatrical production and great songs anchor sold-out show at Red Butte Garden.