David Byrne

Via St. Louis Post Dispatch

By St. Louis Post Dispatch

If Thursday night's David Byrne concert at the Sheldon Concert Hall is any indication of what they venue has in store for this 2004-05 season, concert-goers are in for one heck of a time. Byrne's quirky showmanship and relentless rhythms made for a near-flawless two-hour show.

Just hearing Byrne treat his overwhelmed fans to Talking Heads classic "Once in a Lifetime" made the $75 tickets seem worth it - seriously - considering the state of rapture Byrne, the band and the crowd fell into during the still-hip song. Though the Talking Heads are a thing of the long-ago past, it was the same as it ever was.

Then there was the rest of the concert. Byrne, accompanied by the Tosca Strings, a percussion section and what's believed to be more equipment than has ever been on the Sheldon's stage, mixed magic and musicianship to create a consistent night of avant-garde pop. The intoxicating sounds leading up to and following "Once in a Lifetime" often matched that midshow peak.

Though Byrne's fans may argue, his solo output suffers terribly when lined up next to Talking Heads music. But the often chatty Byrne brought them together nicely. He wasn't afraid to give Talking Heads songs such as "I Zimbra," "Psycho Killer," "(Nothing But) Flowers" and "Road to Nowhere" (which sent the crowd into a hand-clappin', foot-stompin' frenzy) the focus they deserved.

At the same time, he gave strong treatments to solo work such as "The Great Intoxication," "Like Humans Do," "U.B. Jesus," and "What a Day That Was." Even songs from his latest CD, "Grown Backwards," stood on firm ground, unlike their recorded versions.

The slinky Byrne, a great frontman, had no intention of standing still. The upbeat swing he gave his material prompted Byrne to run in place, squat, bounce and jerk all night. The little dance he did when he scooted up to the microphone after the intro to "The Great Intoxication" was priceless, though several percussion instruments fell from the stage onto the front row at the end of the song.

Many of his fans had a hard time containing themselves as well and were clearly itching to jump out of their seats. Many lined the side walls, where they danced.

Supporting Byrne was California singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, whose latest CD is "A Boot and a Shoe." After introducing herself, T-Bone Burnett's ex-wife stood stiffly for an odd, a cappella song. Her band then joined Phillips for the rest of the set and songs such as "Say What You Mean" and "One Day Late." She called them torch songs: "Torch as in tortured, or when you're carrying a torch for someone. You love them, but they don't love you back. But you have hope. I'm here to tell you, hope will kill you." She sang as if the ravages of love had taken their toll on her, but her fans are better for it.

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