By Sean Spillane
There was nothing close to ordinary about Friday night's David Byrne concert at Foxwoods' Fox Theatre. In fact, it was more a performance piece than a rock concert.
Whatever you call it, it worked magically.
Byrne, the former Talking Heads frontman, is on tour promoting his latest collaboration with Brian Eno, the album "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today." As such, the concert focused almost exclusively on the new work by the pair, as well as from the Eno-produced Talking Heads albums and "Fear of Music" from 1979 and 1980's "Remain in Light." The reason everything clicked in concert is that the new album fits in nicely with the tunes from those albums, as opposed to the more experimental work Byrne and Eno cooked up on 1981's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts," which was only represented by one song, "Help Me Somebody." From the start, Friday night's show was different. Usually, an artist will perform a song or two before addressing the audience, sort of priming the pump. Instead, Byrne and his four musicians and three backup singers — all clad in immaculate white clothes — ran out to their positions as Byrne gave a short talk, explaining to the 1,000 or so fans the gist of what they were in for.
"I am Jerry Seinfeld, in case you came to the wrong theater," Byrne cracked, alluding to the comedian performing at the same time at the nearby MGM Grand at Foxwoods.
Byrne talked of the work he and Eno have done in the past, referring to the projects as stuff done by "he and I and some other musicians." A bit of a slap at his former Talking Heads bandmates, no?
After the new "Strange Overtones," the show really picked up with the first Heads song, "I Zimbra," which also brought the first appearance by a trio of dancers, also in all-white ensembles, of course. It was amazing to watch the dancers interact throughout with the musicians and singers with Byrne often joining in the frivolity.
During "Houses in Motion," it was thrilling to watch the dancers circling Byrne, often darting between the singer and his microphone while he was singing. Byrne later fell backward in a show of trust to have the dancers, in perfect sync, ready to make the catch.
Later, in the middle of an instrumental break in the song "Once in a Lifetime," a standing Byrne was leapfrogged by dancer Steven Reker.
Probably the most obscure song performed Friday was "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)," a cut from "The Catherine Wheel," Byrne's 1981 Broadway collaboration with choreographer Twyla Tharp. It was also the only song that didn't have a connection to Eno.
There was even a brand new song added to the set list, "I Never Thought," that sounded terrific; maybe the best of all of the new tunes Byrne played in the show.
Near the end of the main set was a block of songs that brought everybody in the Fox to their feet. A Talking Heads-heavy block of songs that included the favorites "Crosseyed and Painless," "Once in a Lifetime" and "Life During Wartime." The first encore also was as good as gold for fans of Talking Heads as Byrne led his troupe through "Take Me to the River," "The Great Curve" and "Air." For the second encore, everyone returned to the stage dressed in white tutus for a wonderful version of "Burning Down the House." Truly the highlight of the evening.
Byrne closed his 110-minute concert on a quieter note, performing the new "Everything That Happens," which came off as a sort of lullaby to his fans.
One can only hope that Byrne filmed a stop on this tour for a future DVD release. It wouldn't be as good as Talking Heads' Jonathan Demme-directed "Stop Making Sense," but what is?
The set list:
Strange Overtones/I Zimbra/One Fine Day/Help Me Somebody/Houses in Motion/My Big Nurse/My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)/Heaven/I Never Thought/Poor Boy/Crosseyed and Painless/Life is Long/Once in a Lifetime/Life During Wartime/I Feel My Stuff Encores: Take Me to the River/The Great Curve/Air/Burning Down the House/Everything That Happens