By Leilani Polk
David Byrne is the sort of dude who commands attention with his very presence and as soon as he strode onto the stage at tonight’s sold-out show at Tampa Theatre, and gazed out at the crowd with his intense dark-eyed stare, I found it hard to look away.
He was clad in this tour’s trademark uniform – all white: white long-sleeved button-up shirt, white slacks, white shoes, white hair standing on end. His seven-piece band – three back-up singers, a percussionist, a drummer, a bassist and a keyboardist/programmer – trailed behind, each wearing his or her own all-white ensemble, a parade of eye-catching brightness against the theater’s night-shrouded gothic backdrop.
The 1,300-plus crowd ranged in age from late 20’s to early 50’s, with a small smattering of under 21-ers. They murmured excitedly pre-show, rose, clapped and cheered noisily when Byrne made his entrance, then returned to their seats and waited to see what was next.
More photos and the setlist after the jump.
Byrne came off as surprisingly warm and genuine as he greeted the crowed and began telling us what we could expect from the show: some cuts from his new record with Brian Eno, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today – their first collaboration in 30 years – as well as some older Byrne-Eno numbers and a few surprises. He told us it would be “a set menu, no substitutions.”
He kicked off the show with the new single, “Strange Overtones,” his voice floating elegantly over the loose, funky rhythm and catchy thump of a bass line. A trio of petite, athletic, appealingly expressive (dressed all in white) dancers bounded onto the stage for the second number, “I Zimbra,” their tribal-style moves to the African rhythms conceived by NYC experimental modern dance choreographers Noémie Lafrance, Annie-B Parson and robbinschilds.
The trio would return periodically throughout the night to perform choreographed routines with and around Byrne and the band, adding to rather than distracting from the show with their spirited, carefree capering. (There was lots of lyrical interpretation that I didn’t get.)
By the time Byrne launched into the fifth song, “Houses in Motion,” most were still seated, but seemed to be stirring from the loving awe, and there was much head-bobbing and people leaning forward expectantly as if waiting for something. While only a few handfuls were actually dancing, you could tell it was only a matter of time before the rest joined them.
“Houses in Motion” got an extended standing ovation but it wasn’t until Byrne played “Take Me to the River” several songs later (and not long after a stunning rendition of “Heaven”) that people began dancing in earnest. The trickle of bodies making their way to the stage became a flow and soon enough, I’d joined a happy, comfortably crammed, boogieing bunch of Byrne fans up front and it only got livelier with the next song, the fast and funky “Crosseyed and Painless.” I looked around and found pretty much the whole place getting down.
Another new song followed, then a few crowd pleasers — “Once in a Lifetime” and “Life During Wartime” (“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around/ No time for dancing, or lovey dove-y/ I ain’t got time for that now”). The closing number, “Feel My stuff,” was another cut from Everything that Happens that went from slow and spooky with stark piano to fast and fun, Byrne and his troupe of modern dancers performing a highly entertaining zombie-meets-robot series of in-sync dance moves.
And then three encores.
The first was a rousing, jangly number from the new album, “Poor Boy” (“I love talking funny / it’s the only song I know”) and from Remain in Light, “The Great Curve” (cue the dance trio and wildly cheering crowd). The second included “Air” and the ultimate crowd pleaser, “Burning Down the House.” Byrne close with a new song, “Everything That Happens.”
I didn’t read too much about these shows beforehand, so the three sets of encores was an unexpected treat. And I was pleased to find that Byrne’s distinctive warbling falsetto was as clear and strong as ever. Not only that, but he genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself, and really soaked up the crowd’s enthusiasm. When he waved to us at the end, I could feel his satisfaction. His smile said a lot, too.
And thank you, too-suspicious dude, for letting Photographer Phil take a snapshot of the setlist you snagged and hid inside your jacket.
1. Strange Overtones
2. I Zimbra
3. One Fine Day
4. Help Me Somebody (From My Life in the Bush of Ghosts)
5. Houses in Motion (standing ovation)
6. My Big Nurse
7. My Big Hands (Fall through the Cracks)
10. Take Me to the River
11. Crosseyed and Painless
12. Life is Long
13. Once in a Lifetime
14. Life During Wartime
15. Feel my stuff
The Great Curve
Burning Down the House
Everything that happens