By Winda Benedetti
When David Byrne performs on stage, he does this funny little dance. His hips swing and twitch sideways, moving precisely to the beat. His arms flap and stir the air beside him.
Tall, wiry and white haired, this man (the creative force behind the Talking Heads) is impish and gracious and so profoundly silly and yet seriously good at what he does as to be entirely and unquestionably brilliant.
And after seeing him on stage at Pier 62/63 Sunday night, it seems there are not nearly enough flattering descriptives to properly summarize the breadth of his talent and the depth of his geeky cool.
After all, this is a man who can stand on stage -- clad in striped overalls no less -- and sing opera (Giuseppe Verdi's "Un di Felice" from "La Traviata") and then, without a hitch, slip into the rocking hit "Psycho Killer."
Unabashedly quirky and fearlessly innovative, Byrne somehow makes it all work together.
During a lengthy set that included two encores, Byrne (who also brought Luaka Bop records to the world) worked his way through nearly 30 years of his truly eclectic and intelligent music -- a fusion of art rock and world beats, jazz and funk. The Tosca Strings, a six-piece ensemble from Austin, accompanied him, adding a spine-tingling intensity to Talking Heads favorites, such as "This Must Be the Place" and "Life During Wartime," as well as to new pieces such as "Glass, Concrete & Stone."
When a braying ferry horn interrupted his beautiful rendition of Césaria Évora's "Ausencia," Byrne laughingly joked: "You have no idea the bureaucratic wrangling it took to get that boat thing to work out."
The best of his newer stuff came in the form of the rollicking "U.B. Jesus" and "The Great Intoxication" from his 2001 album "Look Into the Eyeball" and in the song "Lazy" off his new album "Grown Backwards," which found outstanding percussionist Mauro Refosco playing a towering tree of drums.
In fact, Refosco's percussion was a highlight throughout the concert. He and Byrne (along with an excellent backup band) had the crowd singing along to favorites "Road to Nowhere" and "Once in a Lifetime." Appreciative and enthusiastic, the audience danced and stomped their feet with so much fervor the pier shook.