By Mike Barnett
AGE is no barrier to still being able to lord it at pop music’s cutting edge, as former Talking Heads main-man David Byrne, a spry 52 next month, proved last night in a thoroughly memorable show.
It was as electric as it was eclectic, an adjective which could have been invented solely for Byrne, for whatever genre takes your fancy – jazz, Latin, folk, bluegrass, pop, rock, and even opera – David Byrne does it.
Clad in what appeared to be a one-piece black cat-suit, a pair of spats and bright red shirt, Byrne looked more like a gigolo than one of the most daringly creative musicians of the past 30 years.
Last night’s sold-out show was to plug his fantastic new album, Grown Backwards, unquestionably one of the most interesting releases of recent months.
Augmented by the six-piece Tosca Strings, Byrne picked liberally from the album, opening with Glass, Concrete & Stone, on which his still-pristine voice soared from the stage to fill the hall effortlessly. But this was no one-man show. Ace percussionist Mauro Refosco gave a masterclass of his art, while bass player Paul Frazier made it look easy. And when the string section was to the fore, Byrne modestly tip-toed aside to let them occupy the spotlight. Everything was crisp, everything was audible.
No David Byrne gig would be complete without a rummage through the Talking Heads back-catalogue. The Road To Nowhere was positively rousing, while Once In A Lifetime was utterly magical.
He closed by bringing it all (almost) up to date with Lazy, his massive hit from 2002 with British dance trio X-Press 2, proving that no genre is immune from the David Byrne treatment. And long may that be the case.