Monday, June 22, 2009

And He Was: David Byrne Live In Santa Fe

My week in Santa Fe wasn't all tortillas and tumbleweeds. There was also a visit to the very beautiful and very small Lensic Theatre. Run less like a concert hall and more like a boarding school, with very strict policies on start times, cell phones, alcohol, and urinal maintenance, (don't ask) the Lensic played host to David Byrne and his band of singers and dancers, and I was very fortunate to be part of the intimate crowd on my last night in New Mexico.

The tour was billed as the "Songs of David Byrne & Brian Eno," and was in support of the recently released and very strong album "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today." Having never seen the Talking Heads in any form back in the day, my only real live David Byrne experiences have been two separate solo shows, where most of the material played was from records I cared little about. (This one and this one.)On this tour, Byrne's band, all dressed in white, and consisting of two percussionists, 3 backing vocalists, one keyboard, one bass, 3 dancers, and Byrne himself as the primary guitar player, sounded like the Heads circa 1980.

The show wasn't just about the (my) perfect setlist, which drew from Byrne/Eno collaborations such as "Fear Of Music," "Remain In Light," & "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts," a record that arguably set the standard for music sampling. It was about a group of artists who seemed determined to entertain. They felt the music, ergo, the audience felt the music.

Byrne's stage banter and body movement was his usual unusual, playfully interacting with the singers and dancers who were doing their best Twyla Tharp, using guitars and office chairs as props. For over 100 minutes, the stage was a circus, with the band flawlessly recreating the sounds of this classic material, while all the vocalists and dancers leapt, twirled, and karate-chopped to the music.

Early on, Byrne and friends performed "Help Me Somebody," a song from the "Bush Of Ghosts" record. No easy feat since most of the voices on that record were tapes of radio broadcasts that included "radio talk-show hosts, Lebanese mountain singers, preachers, exorcism ceremonies, Muslim chanting, and Egyptian pop, among others." Just 15 minutes into the performance and I thought, "They will NOT top this." But of course, they did, with the mini "Remain In Light' set just 6 songs later.

Here is the full set list:

Strange Overtones
I Zimbra
One Fine Day
Help Me Somebody
House In Motion
My Big Nurse
My Big Hands
Life Is Long
Cross-eyed and Painless
Born Under Punches
Once In A Lifetime
Life During Wartime
I Feel My Stuff
Take Me To The River
The Great Curve
Burning Down The House
Everything That Happens

I have been off David Byrne for years now, never really warming up to his forays into world music, bike racks, and hollow buildings. And there was also a period in the early 90's where I was held captive in the woods of Vermont, forced to listen to nothing but Talking Heads and Grateful Dead cassettes from Cornell University. But I do love "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," not to mention all of the Byrne/Eno collaborations, and this performance couldn't have been better if I had produced it exclusively for myself. Truly, one of the better concerts I have seen in years.

Here is a ZIP FILE featuring 4 songs that cover the two highlights I mentioned earlier, only these songs are not from the Lensic but from the Bonnaroo Festival a few days earlier.

1 comment:

charlie c. said...

I can upgrade those Cornell cassettes for you. Just give me some kind of sign . . .