In New York, David Byrne sings of Imelda Marcos
By Christine Kearney
4 February 2007
Independent rock icon David Byrne took the stage at Carnegie Hall on Saturday to unveil for a U.S. audience a collection of songs about the life of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos — minus the shoes.
Byrne, 54, best known as the frontman for the influential off-beat 1980s pop band "Talking Heads," performed the sold-out show "Here Lies Love," accompanied on stage by two singers, a rock band and a small orchestra.
"This is the place to audition a lot of new material," Byrne told the audience at the start of the show, thanking Carnegie Hall for letting him perform the 23 songs he wrote in collaboration with British Deejay Norman Cook, known as Fatboy Slim.
The project, first performed as a song cycle with multimedia elements in Australia last year, is still in development. Byrne recently described it as more akin to a disco opera than a possible Broadway musical.
In skinny black pants and a white shirt, Byrne informed the audience between songs about Imelda Marcos and her life before meeting her husband Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines president from 1965 until he fled to Hawaii in 1986.
"This is not artistic licence, this is reportage," Byrne told a laughing audience as the story moved to Marcos' extravagant visits to New York, where she frequented the famed nightclub "Studio 54."
"She and Ferdinand were like the Jackie and Jack in the Philippines at the time," he said, referring to the former U.S. President John Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline.
Byrne began and finished the set with the title song, "Here Lies Love," which he said was taken from what Mrs. Marcos wanted quoted on her tombstone.
But he waited until the end of the set to address her infamous and extensive shoe collection.
"As you might have noticed, the shoes were never mentioned," he said, explaining that they were discovered after the Marcos family had fled the Philippines — not the period covered in his work.
"It wasn't just the shoes — there was a whole house of Heinz sandwich spread — but that's another piece right there," he joked, before taking a serious tone to add that the Marcos record also included accomplishments such as building schools.
"Of course things got out of hand, but it's not as simple, whatever, as people might think."