Monday, October 6, 2008

David Byrne Played Davies Symphony Hall

You have to wonder if it ever gets tiresome to put on such a fabulous show every single night. By all accounts (including our own), David Byrne does just that. His sets never cease to deliver an incredible musical buffet ranging from his material with the Talking Heads all the way through his latest record that hasn't even been physically released yet. And with those sets, he notoriously gets the audience on their feet and dancing. Even for material they're not familiar with, even in symphony hall, even with a crowd that, let's be honest, was dominated by the over-forty set, he still gets everyone on their feet and dancing. Tonight was certainly no exception.

The set was a diverse selection of work that (as the title of the tour would suggest) drew almost exclusively on Byrne's collaborations with Brian Eno. This was especially interesting to see, given that Byrne's recent tours have focused more on his solo material, and the non-Eno Talking Heads albums. Seeing him get back into the mid-period Talking Heads material was especially rewarding, and Byrne touched solidly on almost all of the singles ("Life During Wartime", "Once In A Lifetime", Heaven", "Take Me To The River") from the era.

In addition to the older material, Byrne also brought out the new material, playing six tracks from his latest record with Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. This struck us as a particularly gutsy move, not because the record's new, but because it's only seen internet release thus far. Still, the audience was certainly attentive to the new material, and gave it just as warm a reception as many of the older tracks. The highlight for us was a searing version of "I Feel My Stuff" that closed out the main set. It started with the same disjointed piano sample from the record, and wound up with a directed guitar attack.

We have to admit that we had been skeptics of the "dance interpretation" section of the program. It seemed maybe like it was trying a little to hard to be "different", and maybe more of an effort to artificially up the artistic credibility of the tour. We couldn't have been more wrong. The dancers were a completely on target, and really added to each and every song that they were present on. They danced with the backup singers, with each other, and at one point even leapt right over (yes, you read that correctly) David Byrne. Their dance served to energize the crowd, provide a direct interpretation of the music on stage, and most of all to create an interactive dynamic that Byrne used to his favor throughout the set. If this is interpretive dance, then get us to the studio. Seriously, it was that good.

The set wrapped up with something that has almost become a Byrne tradition in San Francisco: an appearance by the Extra Action Marching Band. The band descended through the crowd-filled aisles for about 10 minutes of marching band jam-time, followed by a full-band version of "Burning Down The House" with all the house lights on. This time was especially spectacular, as Byrne's dancers joined the Extra Action cheerleaders on stage for one fantastic, final, chaotic tune. The crowd (and us, for that matter) couldn't get enough, and the cheering went on until Byrne basically had to bow out in order to be able to make it home for the night.

On that note, we will tell you this: there are still tickets available for Tuesday night. So, you're going, right? Seriously - this one's not to miss, folks.

Click here to check out the setlist. All songs but the last one were played - apparently it wasn't applicable. ;)

Many more pictures at the HAD Archive


Benjo said...

Excellent review, excellent show. Having seen Byrne upwards of 10 times with ensembles ranging from solo acoustic to orchestral, this was almost undoubtedly the best. The dancers indeed added a huge amount; the backup vocalists were fantastic (vocally, the band was basically Talking Heads), the song selection was incredible, and Byrne's voice has never sounded better. Too bad to know we missed ETHWHT, but after Burning Down, I was fully sated.

Anyone on the fence about going tonight or tomorrow in Santa Rosa, do it.