By Andrew Frisicano
David Byrne opened the Celebrate Brooklyn 2009 Season with a free show at the Prospect Park bandshell last night (Monday, June 9th). The show continued Dave Byrne's year-long tour of material from his collaborations with Brian Eno. That show, on its trip around the world, visited NJ's Wellmont Theater on June 3rd, and Radio City Music Hall on February 27th and 28th.
In Brooklyn, the above-capacity crowd wasn't deterred by threats of rain, which held off for the length of the two-hour set. David Byrne noted that he biked to the show; he wasn't the only one, as the 'bike valet' was packed (apparently Byrne rode home too). Those who did park in the bike valet were automatically entered to win a new bike which Byrne showed off from the stage before his set. Those that couldn't get through the door caught the open-air action from video screens aimed towards the back of the crowd.
Byrne's set opened, as it has all tour, with "Strange Overtones," the hypnotic single off the newest Eno/Byrne collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. The bandshell's reverberating walls were an incredibly jarring transition from punchy studio sound of the original -- as catchy as the tune is, it was kind of a strange, underwhelming start.
Things only went up from there, as the band's sound melded together and its accompanying dancers boosted the visuals. Their dance moves, which traded off with the members of the band, seemed to mimic Byrne's own jerky mannerisms, as well as the themes of the songs (eg. office chair props during the wage slave anthem "Life Is Long").
Overall, the energy on stage and in the crowd was high. "Once in a Lifetime," which came near the end of the set, sent the remaining seated show-goers to their feet. One older couple, who I'm sure had to be around when Byrne hit the scene in '75, went from joking with their granddaughter about the pot smell in the air to cutting a serious rug for the set's high-density end.
Byrne used his first encore to introduce the band and special guest, percussionist Steve Scales. The Talking Heads/Byrne regular, who played on both The Name of This Band is Talking Heads to My Life in a Bush of Ghosts for starters, joined the band for two songs that included "Take Me to the River." As the only one not dressed in all white, Scales bounded across the stage and hyped up the crowd. His unscripted enthusiasm, far from the composed moves of Byrne, added a nice party vibe to the choreographed set.
The band returned for a second two-song encore that included the non-Eno song "Burning Down the House", and finally, back for a third time, closed with an acoustic-led version of "Everything That Happens."