Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile


David Byrne live

David Byrne live
October 15, 2018 04:58PM
I attended the ACL Festival this weekend. Saw Janelle Monae, Paul McCartney, the Revolution, Natalie Prass, Nicole Atkins, Durand Jones & the Indications, the National, Thunderpussy and bits and bobs of Lily Allen, Twin Shadow, Mon Lefrere and the abomination that is Greta Von Fleet, with varying degrees of love/like/hate/ambivalence.

But the best set I saw was from David Byrne. I am, at best, a casual Talking Heads fan - so casual I didn't realize that Heads songs made up half the set. (I only recognized "Once in a Lifetime," "Road to Nowhere" and "Burning Down the House.") I don't know his solo records at all. But the presentation, craft, enthusiasm and just plain art in this performance was just dazzling to me. If you've seen any YouTube vids, you know what I'm talking about. Seeing it in person was quite revelatory. I don't know that I'm going to start listening to his solo records, or dig out that Talking Heads box set I was given years ago, but I'd go see him play again in a heartbeat. If you're a fan and he's coming near you, you owe it to yourself to attend his show.
Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 12:03AM
I would love to see Byrne live! I have never done so, although I did speak to him once in an elevator...
Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 02:34AM
Coming up on The Artist's Studio ... Zwirn Meets Byrne: The Full Story! Don't miss it.

Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 02:43AM
I'd love to see Byrne live, although I was disappointed by his new album apart from "Everyone's Coming To My House." I'm a big enough Talking Heads fan that I saw STOP MAKING SENSE in the theater in spring 2017 and then bought it on DVD and watched it the following Thanksgiving. His first two solo albums, MUSIC FROM THE Catherine wheel & REI MOMO, are excellent. I haven't delved far beyond that.
Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 02:52AM
To my tremendous discredit, Byrne has played not one, not two, but three separate shows in WA in 2018 -- two separate dates in Seattle and an appearance at the Sasquatch Festival -- and I didn't get off my ass to buy a ticket to any of them.

In my losing defense, I did see Talking Heads twice.

Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 07:53PM
I saw him several months back and it was pretty spectacular.

His opening act, however, was a fellow by the name of Benjamin Clementine, and he was as pretentious and insufferable an artiste as anybody I'd ever seen - imagine Laurie Anderson without the slide show, tunes, humor, personality, wit and restraint. His stage setup was a piano for him, a keyboard for another musician and several mannequins.

At the onset of his show, he slowly took to the stage ringing a bell, and slowly, dear God so slowly, walked around his set two or three times, just ringing the damn bell. He then took his seat at the piano and began to hammer out and sing a slow dramatic tune. It was kind of mesmerizing for what felt like the first 15 minutes of that song, but then it went on and on and on and on and on for another 12 hours. When he finally finished that first song, he stood up, picked up his fucking bell again and did another couple of slow laps around his piano, synthesizer and mannequins.

A few more songs followed, all of which seemed interesting when they started but then dragged on longer than a Godspeed You Black Emperor album played at 16 rpm., but fortunately not punctuated by more damn bell ringing. At the climax of one song, he stood and, with his voice electronically modified into shrieks and howls, approached a child sized mannequin and gripped the top of its head, and slowly marched it off stage at his side, making it take each step with him. then slowly sauntered back to his piano, still howling. The Bataan Death March took less time.

The audience was remarkably tolerant of his shenanigans - I think everyone knew that Byrne had hand-picked his opening acts on this tour and we midwesterners are nothing if not deferential to the host's wishes. If Byrne vouched for the guy, then most of the audience felt the need to be polite, and he got a decent round of applause after each song.

However, sometime around the 40 minute mark (which felt like the two decade mark), he abruptly stood up mid-song and walked offstage. The audience seemed confused for a couple of seconds, then gave him a round of applause. I figured, given how artsy his performance had been, that that was just the way it was supposed to end. But then I read in the paper the next day that someone in one of the front rows had had enough and yelled something, and Clementine didn't care much for it and departed the stage.

Seems kind of thin-skinned to me, if one yelled remark could run him off the stage. He really was asking for rotten fruit and tomatoes during his whole performance and was lucky the audience was as polite as it was. (Hell, in the same venue back in the 80s, the Producers and Peter Himmelman were both booed off the stage on separate occasions, and in retrospect they had committed no sins at all, except the Producers seemed like bandwagon jumping old farts when opening for Squeeze and no one had heard of Peter Himmelman when he opened for Elvis Costello. Neither act took two or three minutes [twice!] to walk in circles while ringing a bell.)

Juana Molina opened some of the dates on Byrne's tour. Wish to hell we'd gotten her.

EDIT: In fairness to Clementine, he is a Mercury Award winner and his actual recorded music is interesting enough. But pray to God you never have to sit through one of his performances. Even my friend who was with me, who is a conceptual performance artist by trade and on Yoko Ono's Christmas card list, had enough of the guy after one and a half songs and spent the rest of his set outside having a smoke or three. If HE finds something pretentious and irritating, then God have mercy on the rest of us poor mortals.

Post Edited (10-17-18 09:24)
Re: David Byrne live
October 17, 2018 02:46PM
Holy Macaroni! That sounds bad, but could it be worse that GGOOLLDD opening up for the last OMD tour in Atlanta? They were easily the worst opening act I've ever had to sit through! I was still in the OMD merch line when I heard the opening act, GGOOLLDD begin at 7:30 sharp. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I had sampled GGOOLLDD online and was horrified at what befell my ears. They were a synth rock act with a female lead singer with one of those horrifying tremulous little girl voices that have proliferated since the 90s with a ton of vibrato – my least favorite vocal footprint. When watching their video with my wife I remarked that maybe Stevie Nicks was no longer my least favorite vocalist any longer [from me, this was QUITE a statement…] so it’s fair to say that I was not looking forward to GGOOLLDD’s performance, but seeing as the show was general admission, if we wanted seats to our liking, this necessitated viewing the band. From the merch area outside the room, it sounded pretty awful. Then I walked inside and sawthe band.

The singer was dressed ludicrously in a pair of shorts that were too tight and too short, with some kind of garter belt/chains [?] attached to her thighs. Her every move an awkward, contrived pose that hurt to watch. The band all looked like what I would call the Heavy Metal Paint Crew. Hairy dudes with long hair and white t-shirts and white jeans. It was a massive onstage disconnect as seemingly random elements completely failed to congeal into any sort of coherent, or even merely interesting whole. In concert, her shoes lit up. And her cape, which she fluttered like a golden butterfly. I blanched when she did the cartwheel. My wife opined that she was maybe the granddaughter of someone reasonably powerful and that she took a “rock presentation” class at her community college. There was not one iota of her performance that was honest or in any way genuine.

I normally like artistic contrivance, and can often prefer it to “authenticity,” but this was artless contrivance. The worst of both worlds. This seemed like a cry for help. The singer spoke a lot and apologized for her voice, which she said was going out on her, but if that happened, she said she could compensate with interpretive dance. I thought that if she had maybe a shred of a clue about how to properly sing, maybe her voice would not be going. As it was I felt really embarrassed for her, but maybe that’s a generational thing. If so, then heaven help us. Oh, and one more thing, the band’s sound was muddy and distorted as hell! This spectacle sounded as bad as it looked. I could only hope that OMD at least sounded better than this. It ended after 30 none-too-brief minutes. This was without a doubt the worst musical/stage performance I had ever witnesses in my 54 years. Costuming, presentation, movement, and staging were absolutely the bottom of the barrel. I have no memory of any music.

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®
Re: David Byrne live
October 18, 2018 04:00AM
I gotta say Brad that your review really had me laffin'. Haven't read such an amusing bad-gig review since Delvin's encounter with John Denver's protege:

Not that GGOOLLDD seem any better. I assume it's pronounced "gold", but just to annoy em, I'd insist on pronouncing it "gu gu oh oh ul ul duh duh."
Re: David Byrne live
October 18, 2018 10:54AM
I'm right there with you on GGOOLLDD, Monk. I saw OMD in Chicago back in March with that bunch in tow and they were exactly as bad as you described.

I had checked them out ahead of time, too, and didn't have quite as negative a reaction to them as you did - I was more just "meh" on their stuff on Youtube and Spotify, but was willing to be pleasantly surprised by them live. Sadly, I was not.

But as you said, their music in concert was completely unmemorable. I'm not sure if that's due to the music itself, or just the ridiculously overblown distraction provided by the singer's antics. I've never wanted to scream "JUST STAND THERE AND SING!!!!" so badly in my life. (I might have actually done so, but I can't remember.) Interpretive dance moves, constant "dramatic" gestures, all sorts of pretense and foofaraw. At one point she collapsed to the stage and laid there for the rest of the song keening away at whatever the hell she was on about right then, and the woman standing behind me observed "I kind of hope she decides to take a nap now that she's down there."

And whoever did the lighting for them didn't do them any favors. The one effect that might've been kind of cool - when she lifted her cape/wings and revealed that the thing was laced with Christmas lights - could have been neat, if anyone had bothered to tell the lighting crew that they needed to turn the spotlight on her off right about then. As it was, you kind of had to squint and say "Oh, hey. I guess her cape is supposed to be lit up."

For a not-unattractive young woman to appear in hot pants and thigh-high stockings and garters and still be utterly boring to an old swine like myself takes some doing. She wasn't graceful enough for any of her theatrics to be mesmerizing, wasn't awkward/geeky enough for them to be charming, but was plenty awkward enough for them to not be sexy.

The rest of the band were just non-entities, although the guitarist looked like Andrew WK's younger, less fun brother. And exactly what the guitarist and bassist actually did was beyond me, as the keyboards and drums were the only instruments that were audible. The two axe men may have just been there for show for all I know.

The aforementioned performance artist friend who was with me at David Byrne was also with me at OMD. He is a freaking performance artist, and thus has a high tolerance for this kind of stuff. I've seen him don a bowler hat, climb a stepladder and pour water from in a pitcher into varying sized vessels all on the floor in the name of art. He had approval from the city to herd cattle through downtown Chicago this last summer, until someone else at the city with higher cognitive function and something resembling common sense pulled the plug on it. He is not hostile to these sorts of things, yet he spent most of GGOOLLDD's performance groaning in dismay (though a lot of that also had to be chalked up to the Vic's policy of not letting anyone back in if they went outside to smoke. The three and a half hours we spent inside for that show was likely the longest he's gone without a cigarette since 1979).

Anyhow, I'm all for theatrics in performances if they're done in an entertaining way. Slap the Smith sisters & spouses in their nurse uniforms and have them doing silly dances while Daniel Smith yowls like an alley cat in Danielson and I'm on board 100% - I'm driving over to Indianapolis to see them this weekend because it's the closest they've been to St. Louis in 20 years. Put angel wings on costumes on all of Sufjan Stevens' band members? Go for it.

The David Byrne show that started this thread? Theatrical as hell and every second of it was amazing.

But GGOOLLDD and Benjamin Clementine land on the wrong side of the equation. They are not entertaining or thought-provoking or charming or interesting. Just stupid and pretentious.

But of the two, I give the edge to Clementine as the most offensive. I'm willing to give GGOOLLDD a bit of a mulligan for being young and dumb and still searching for a gimmick to set them apart from the multitudes of synth-pop revivalists. They might have the potential to wise up at some point and knock that shit off. That probably still wouldn't make them actually good, but at least they'd be less excruciating. Clementine seemed very, very committed to his ART, and seems much more likely to double down on the pretense in the future than to ever back off from it.

They both made me appreciate Cherry Glazer a little more, who had annoyed the hell out of me opening for Slowdive last November. All they did wrong was have a singer/guitarist who tended to make goofy/ironic Rock Star faces during her solos, and make announcements between songs like "This.....song....is about aaaaaaaa..........sandddddwiccchhhhh." Irritating, but not horrifically so.
Re: David Byrne live
October 18, 2018 11:22AM
Breno - so it wasn't just us then? Good. I appreciate your validation. Especially with a performance artist buddy to really call a spade a spade. The palpable embarrassment I felt for that woman was perhaps, as you opine, indicative of her moral [if not artistic] superiority to Mr. Clementine. He sounds like a guy who we'd better come to appreciate his art, or else one day his act could involve an assault rife.

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®
Re: David Byrne live
October 16, 2018 11:51AM
I have disliked Byrne's Music for 30+ years. This summer, coincidentally, I finally bought his "Catherine Wheel" CD and found it even more riveting that I expected it would have been for nearly 30 years. I also got his 2nd album with Eno and liked it a lot even thought I knew it would be nothing like the seminal "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts." But the whole fake salsa solo thing just left me cold and I moved on from Byrne ages ago. The last 4 Talking Heads albums were rapidly diminishing returns, but the arc of the first four were spectacular. Plus,, hearing how big of a jerk Byrne was to his bandmates over the last 20+ years had basically soured me on the guy.

Lately, I have been reconsidering my antagonistic relationships with many artists whom I'd once loved but developed a hardline attitude against. See Midge Ure, for example. I have recently seen Ure twice since he's finally deigning to tour with more than an acoustic guitar and really enjoyed it. Plus, the guy is just a fine gentleman, and I've recanted my scornful disdain for a more nuanced attitude. So what if he's done nothing I like for [checks] 33 years. As long as he's playing the '80-'84 stuff that rocked my world - with rock instrumentation, I'm down with it.

So when Byrne was coming to Asheville last May, I thought "maybe this is the time to finally see him." I'd never seen Talking Heads - they just didn't do Florida in the 80s. So I looked into buying a ticket. Mamacita! The tickets started in the low three figures and went upwards pretty severely!! I was anticipating a $40-60 investment, not 2-3x that! So I blew it off as artistic hubris in the extreme and was happy to not go.

Then, I only recently saw descriptions of the show Bryne was doing on this tour. Why in the hell didn't anyone talk about this up front??!! Had I known that it would be far more than merely his band on stage, I would have been fine with the outlay! Now I'm angry that I blew it off thanks to the non-existant PR done in advance of the tour! Artists: if you are going to do a show that spectacular [almost a dance event] please band the drum loud enough so that we know we will get our money's worth!

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login