Saturday, June 27, 2009

David Byrne Played The Greek Theater - Pictures, Review, Setlist

For the past year or so, David Byrne has been enjoying a bout of renewed popularity and critical acclaim as he's traveled the world promoting his latest record Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Last night at the Greek Theater, Byrne proved without a doubt that he is more than deserving of the praise. Over a lengthy set with three encores, Byrne and his troupe of dancers and musicians won over the Bay Area crowd with an amazing night of music.

Gypsy-rockers Devotchka opened the night, and delivered a solid set in their own right. The band was instrumentally adept, and effortlessly jumped between guitar, violin, bass, accordion, and even a tuba! Lead singer Nick Urata really gave power to the band's set, and there's no doubt that his vocals certainly share a common thread with Byrne's.

We have to admit, we don't typically fall in love with the gypsy-rock crossover vibe, but Devotchka really made it work. By balancing their gypsy-influenced sound with a really solid dose of rock and roll, they managed to hold on to musical complexity, while at the same time opening up their sound to accessibility and widespread appeal. If you have an opportunity to catch them, do it. You won't regret it.

Byrne took the stage at around nine o'clock, and kicked things off with "Strange Overtones", from his latest record. It's worth noting that despite being heavily loaded with new material, Byrne's set was seamless in terms of audience perception. There was no feeling of "lull" during the new material, and the crowd was going wild almost unrelentingly throughout the show.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that Byrne has managed to amass a live band that is ridiculously tight, and manages to infuse its own persona into the material, while staying true to the originals. The result is a set that is even more riveting than the recorded versions of the material. Everything present in those versions is more pronounced, more available, and more immediate.

Much of that immediacy found it's way into the old Talking Heads material, and it sounded as good as we've ever heard it. "Once In A Lifetime" dug in with a raucous breakdown at its closing, while "Crosseyed and Painless" featured a searing guitar solo from Byrne, and with its "still waiting" refrain, kept the crowd dancing for what seemed like endless moments of awesomeness.

In addition to the band being in top form, Byrne's dance troupe has furthered their already excellent routine since we last saw them. They provided a playful and artistic presence on the stage, and served to give the songs further depth and character. Of note was a surreal moment where Byrne joined the dancers in office chairs, and a fantastic dance number during "Air" featuring a trove of white Stratocasters.

As has become something of a San Francisco tradition, Byrne was joined in the second encore by the Extra Action Marching Band. The band joined Byrne for a killer version of "Road To Nowhere", followed by "Burning Down The House". As if having a marching band join him on stage weren't enough, the second encore also brought along with it a deluge of balloons, further amplifying the party-like atmosphere. If you're thinking "crazy", you're maybe half way there.

The night closed out with Byrne calming the mood a bit with "Everything That Happens". The fittingly mellow closer was followed by a stream of applause from the crowd that simply would not let up. It was painfully clear that not only was the audience loving the show, but the band was loving them right back. Smiles abounded, good times were clearly being had, and everyone wished they could have a bit more. It was a magnificent night, and a fitting way to close out the band's US tour.

Strange Overtones

I Zimbra

One Fine Day

Help Me Somebody

Houses In Motion

My Big Nurse

My Big Hands


Life Is Long

Crosseyed & Painless

Born Under Punches

Once In A Lifetime

Life During Wartime

Feel My Stuff
Take Me To The River

The Great Curve


Road To Nowhere

Burning Down The House


Everything That Happens

Many more pictures at the
HAD Archive


chrisr said...

Great pix! I uploaded a video of Burning Down the House from last night. Sorry for the marginal audio.

Anonymous said...

just FYI, Crosseyed and Painless is the song with the "still waiting" refrain, not Born Under Punches.

hippiesaredead said...

You are correct, anonymous. Duly noted - Thanks!