Byrne still knows no musical boundaries

Via Calgary Herald

By Heath McCoy

David Byrne was a vision of stark white Monday at Jack Singer Concert Hall, from his frosty hair and hospital-like outfit down to his tennis shoes.

So, for that matter, were the members of the revered singer-songwriter's 10-piece band, including his dancers, who performed a funky, interpretive ballet throughout the night as Byrne served up songs from a specific segment of his musical canon.

The gig was billed as a celebration of Byrne's many collaborations with big-brain producer/ songwriter Brian Eno -- an elite songbook that includes the three Eno-produced records from Byrne's legendary former band, Talking Heads, as well as three Byrne-Eno collaborative efforts.

At 56, one might wonder if Byrne's mellowed from his days as frontman of the edgy post-punk Talking Heads, a group he led with inspired, almost manic, energy back in the day.

Oh, he might have matured, but Monday's concert made it clear he's still a musically adventurous soul, and as quirky as he's ever been.

Was there any question during his raving mad vocals on Help Me Somebody, delivered heatedly while the song's African rhythms propelled the tune? Then there was the bizarro moment where his dancers slid around the stage on office chairs, or when Byrne appeared in a tutu during one of his many encores, the Talking Heads hit Burning Down The House.

It's not easy to define the music at a Byrne concert because he's always defied classifications. Sure, he recently described his latest Eno collaboration -- Everything That Happens Will Happen Today -- as "electronic-folk gospel" -- but that doesn't exactly narrow things down, does it?

There's a delineation that takes some wrapping one's head around.

Throughout his career he's tackled everything from punk and funk to new wave and world music.

Add Eno to the mix, the famed U2 producer who's the master of the lush, ambient soundscape, and you open up the possibilities even more radically. Arguably, Eno's every bit the maverick Byrne is, so there's no surprise Monday's show was a musical feast -- and that's an understatement.

Among the finest moments was the polyrhythmic electro-R&B of Strange Overtones and the intoxicating tribal beats of I Zimbra. Then there was the dreamy sway of One Fine Day and the gorgeous Heaven.

Byrne saved the most unforgettable bits for the show's finale with an electro-steeped version of the infectious Life During Wartime and a sexy, spirited cover of the Al Green soul gem Take Me To The River, a Heads staple.

Equally invigorating was the solo tune I Feel My Stuff, which had Byrne joining his dancers for an oddball choreographed dance before the song boiled over into a fantastic rock climax.

Trying to get a bead on exactly where Byrne is coming from at any given moment is a futile task. You're better off to just open your ears and go along for the ride.

That's what 1,700 fans did Monday, and the joy in the room for having done so was palpable.

December Radio David Byrne Presents: Arabia

More Info