Miami Beach audience hears ageless music from Byrne of famed Talking Heads

Via The Miami Herald

By Jordan Levin

Like the music, which ranged from 1978 to 2008, the audience at David Byrne's concert Saturday night spanned generations. There were plenty of folks at the sold-out Fillmore Miami Beach who exulted to Talking Heads back in the late 70s and early 80s, but they were outnumbered by screaming, dancing 20-somethings who weren't even born when songs like "Take Me To The River" (1978) came out. Yes, the eighties and new wave music may be hip and inspiring again, but it's not just that. Byrne and his music are on track to be ageless.

The show was part of a tour celebrating the just released album Byrne made with composer Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, as well as their 30 years of collaboration. It's startling to realize how much Eno had to do with the Heads' sound. Equally startling was how fresh all the songs, including many of the group's best known, sounded: the taut, reluctantly soulful electro-funk, the rich textures, the buzzing harmonies, and, for the new songs, a musical and melodic lushness and sense of acceptance.

Byrne, lean and wired as ever at 56, with a shock of white hair, led a vibrant, stripped down band: bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, and three singers; plus three marvelous dancers who tumbled and boogied in post-modern pop exuberance, often with the singers or Byrne himself. (The fan who yelled ''I want to be a David Byrne dancer!'' spoke for everyone there).

Byrne seemed relaxed, even jovial. ''My name's Dave,'' he said early on. ''It's a set menu, but there'll be dessert afterwards.'' But he still vibrates like he's plugged into a high voltage outlet, still rips off howling guitar solos, and when he moved with the dancers, you couldn't take your eyes off him.

Instead of the usual black or trendy hodge-podge, all the performers were dressed in white, which added visual brightness and a sense of spiritual exultation. Leavened by fun, which was also apparent in the playful interaction and staging (everyone donned white crinolines for "Burning Down the House"), and a happily relaxed feeling that this was just a bunch of people making music together. Byrne calls the music on Everything That Happens ''gospel-folk-electronic'' -- sophisticated enough to be simple, smart, and heartfelt, like the show.

Early Heads songs like "I Zimbra," "Life During Wartime," and "The Great Curve" still have edgy, churning power, drawn from the Heads' particular combination of high-strung punk urgency with full-flowing gospel and funk exuberance, and the tension of being pulled reluctantly from irony to ecstasy. Byrne's lyrics, too, are full of tension, and, often, rejection, whether of a heaven "where nothing ever happens", or the isolated, perilous landscape of Wartime.

Thirty years later, Byrne is more accepting, of musical soulfulness and sheer beauty, or of the notion that life has meaning after all. New songs like "My Big Nurse" and "Life is Long" practically shimmer, with the loveliest harmonies and melody, and with an odd and heartfelt sense of possibility. ''I'm lost - but I'm not afraid'' Byrne sings on "Life is Long."

The songs on the first two encores were old party-starters: "Take Me to the River," "Burning Down the House." But the final song was the glowing, strangely spiritual "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," where the prospect of each day seems infinite. All the performers, even the dancers, sang, their voices vibrating together and Byrne's vibrating more intensely through them, singing ''nothing has changed, but nothing's the same.'' You could also say that's true of Byrne himself.

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