June 14, 2009
Better than: just about anything else happening on a Sunday night.
Dressed in all white, like some kind of angelic delivery boy, legendary indie rock icon David Byrne thrilled a packed house at the Majestic Theatre with two hours of angular pop/funk that was downright inflammable.
The former Talking Heads mainstay was touring in support of his most recent effort, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his second collaboration with vaunted knob-twister Brian Eno.
Nonetheless, over 80 percent of the set was taken up by Talking Heads material; and most of that came, joyfully, from Remain in Light, the band's 1980 masterwork.
With the help of his top-notch 10-piece assemblage of musicians and dancers, Byrne brought vigor to songs both old and new. Whether it was a Heads chestnut such as "Once in a Lifetime" or a surprisingly obscure choice such as "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks" from Twyla Tharp's little-known Broadway piece The Catherine Wheel, Byrne and crew locked on to a groove and never faltered. Toward the middle of the set, Byrne brought the crowd to its feet with a killer series of songs that included "Cross-eyed and Painless," "Houses in Motion," "Life During Wartime" and "Heaven."
Even more impressive were the selections from Byrne and Eno's 1981 collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Replacing the original "found" recordings with his own vocals, Byrne turned "Help Me Somebody" into an intense religious metaphor instead of just an egg-headed experiment in electronic manipulation.
After encores that included "Burning Down the House" (but surprisingly no "Psycho Killer"), Byrne finally ended the evening with the title track from the newest effort. Although certainly not as familiar to the audience as what came before, the peaceful song proved a perfect cool down for the hectic frenzy that preceded it.
Personal Bias: The Talking Heads' Remain in Light remains one of my favorite albums, and the fact that Byrne based his entire set around the 30-year-old effort demonstrates what high regard he must also hold the record in. The Heads would go on to bigger commercial success, sure, but Byrne would never again write a more cohesive set of songs.
Random Note: Economy? What economy? Despite ticket prices that ranged from $40 to $90, the Majestic Theatre was packed--even the balconies. And the wine/beer line snaked from counter to door throughout most of the evening. Thoroughly plied with libations, the crowd was loud and rowdy from start to finish, making this evening definitely one to remember.