Byrning down the house

Via Seattle Post-Intelligencer

By Mikel Toombs

A David Byrne concert in Seattle isn't quite a once-in-a-lifetime event, but you wouldn't have known that by the reception here Wednesday night. A sold-out Benaroya Hall crowd greeted the former head Talking Head with a standing ovation, the first of several he would receive.

"Wow. I got what I wanted," Byrne deadpanned. "I'm going home now."

Instead of going home, Byrne burned down the house.

He stayed for nearly two hours, playing a combination of new material and vintage Talking Heads.

The common denominator was Brian Eno, that worldly master of musical textures, who collaborated three decades ago on such classic Heads albums as (the ironically titled) "Fear of Music" and "Remain in Light," and now on Byrne's new "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today."

That meant a mix of, in Byrne's words, "back in the day and present day -- very little in the middle."

With the singer, the four-man Byrne band, three backing vocalists and three dancers dressed all in white -- Byrne even donned a white tutu for "Burning Down the House" -- the nearly two-hour show opened with "Strange Overtones," its world-funk sound no longer strange at all ("The groove is 20 years old," Byrne sang).

Ranging from "Everything That Happens," the adult lullaby with which he closed the evening, to the vibrant "I Feel My Stuff," Byrne's current songs were reflective and nuanced, artfully incorporating African rhythms and ambient elements. Still, they didn't pack the jolt of his older work.

The new "Life Is Long" gave way to the still-sublime "Once in a Lifetime" -- you may ask yourself, "How does he work this?" -- and "Life During Wartime," which turned Benaroya into a hip disco. The funkadelic "Crosseyed and Painless" was similarly dance-inducing, while his interpretation of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" proved as deeply soulful as ever.

And the Twyla Tharp-y choreography -- Byrne, still nimble at 56, joined in -- that enhanced the arty yet organic nature of the presentation gave an ironic twist to "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)," an actual Tharp commission reimagined for the show.

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