By John Meagher
This is an age in which musicians try to outdo each other in pyrotechnics and special effects. U2's big-budget forthcoming tour will be a case in point, and every two-bit act going seems keen to utilise big screens and a clever light show.
David Byrne has eschewed all that. Yet his show is as much about the visuals as the music. Three dancers interpret the songs and a trio of backing singers and four-piece band have the moves down pat, too. All of them -- Byrne included -- are dressed head to toe in white. You can't take your eyes off a group who look like they are members of a benign cult.
The 56-year-old -- who's looking well for his age -- is on the road to play songs from his new album 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today'. It's his latest collaboration with Brian Eno and this show features songs from the pair's projects over the years, including three Talking Heads albums and the groundbreaking 'My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts' record. Eno is not here in person, but he certainly is in spirit.
New songs, 'Strange Overtones', 'One Fine Day' and 'Life Is Long', suggest that Byrne's ability to write memorable compositions is undimmed, but it's his Talking Heads output that really energises this expectant crowd. And what a back catalogue: 'Houses In Motion', 'Heaven' and 'Life During Wartime' all sound splendid, and the experience is enhanced by the dancers' fluid movements.
Clearly the show has been tightly choreographed, yet there's a sense of spontaneity. That's a tricky feat to pull off, but Byrne -- a true renaissance man -- manages it.
There are several thrilling moments -- one of them is the polyrhythms generated by the twin percussionists on 'Help Me Somebody'. Another is Byrne's jerky, nervy delivery of 'Once In A Lifetime' -- which, predictably, gets rapturous applause.
A rendition of the Al Green gospel standard 'Take Me To The River' has everybody off their seats while 'Burning Down The House' offers the happiest confluence of music and dance in this show.
It's marvellous stuff.
Many young bands strive to emulate David Byrne's art-rock geekdom, but the master need not worry about the imitators. On this sort of form, there's nobody like him.