By Jon Perks
He may be called Byrne, but organisers might have waited until the end of the former Talking Heads frontman’s set until they lit a nearby 40ft tall zombie effigy.
The burning pyre, along with a huge fireworks display, was set off only a few songs into Byrne’s Sunday night headlining set, showing the 57-year-old none of the respect he deserves. It was a good job he’s such a pro and showman.
“You wanna see the man burn?” he asked, as hundreds walked away from the main stage towards the pyrotechnics. Many were there simply to hear Byrne play Talking Heads songs, and early on in the set there were none.
“Okay, look that way and listen this way,” he joked. Once you’ve seen one burning zombie, you’ve seen them all – while Byrne’s hypnotic show was not to be missed.
He and the band, and three dancers, all dressed in white, the set opened with several Brian Eno collaborations, including the stark and beautiful One Fine Day (from last year’s album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today) and the livelier Help Me Somebody (from the 1981 groundbreaking My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts).
The dancers’ movements may have verged on art school cheese (a la Spike Jonze’s video for Fatboy Slim’s Praise You), but in Byrne’s hand it was enthralling, enchanting and entertaining. The whole band joined in with the running dance, while Byrne found himself leapfrogged at one point, and a bunch of office chairs on castors became the unlikeliest of props – it was a quirky but must-see show.
We soon got our Talking Heads fix, the vast majority from their various albums with Eno input; Heaven (from Fear of Music), Crosseyed and Painless (from the seminal Remain In Light), Life During Wartime, their great cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River and, of course, Once In a Lifetime, which got the best reception of the night.
Byrne still cuts a handsome figure, and, with his grey head of hair, white dress and sometimes manic, barking delivery, can come across a little eccentric. But there’s no denying this is a true musical genius who still looks and sounds passionate about his craft and doesn’t just go through the motions.
The hour and 20 minutes flew by, but we were treated to three encores, including the fabulous Road To Nowhere and Burning Down The House. If Hexstatic hadn’t been billed to follow Byrne, you got the impression he’d have played on for another hour.
We’d have only been too happy if he had.
A great finale to another great Big Chill – next year’s has got a lot to live up to.