St. Vincent and David Byrne McFarlin Auditorium Sunday, October 7
Musical collaborations among established artists usually don't work. Sometimes there's too much baggage of past success to overcome, or the resulting product is just a novelty that didn't bring out the best of the artists involved or satisfy any fanbase.
That's what makes Love This Giant, the new album by David Byrne and Annie Clark, so unique. Neither artist compromised the important elements that make them identifiable, and yet neither dominates the album. In fact, it comes off as more than the sum of the parts that could work as a Byrne or St. Vincent solo record, or perhaps an entirely new thing altogether. That brings up another issue with collaborations: when performing live, are the new songs just filler to get to the respective hits?
In the case of Love This Giant, no. The majority of the set list was made up of songs from their recent collaboration, and the new songs and unique choices the music is built upon - like the 10=piece brass band - translated very well to the stage.
The show opened with a one-two punch of "Who?" and "Weekend in the Dust," which set the tone for the night: this would not be a greatest hits show. Instead, a powerful and purposeful display of the new stuff filled most of the evening. Through the bouncy "The Forest Awakes" to the poppy "Lazarus" and moving "Outside of Time and Space," the show only paused to let the brass players get in position.
Yes, the brass players had positions; choreographed positions to begin each song, and movements and placements during each song. That gave the show more of a feeling of performance art instead of a rock concert, which might have given some a cold, detached feeling. But their bouncy arrangements, superb sound and powerful drums helped break those walls down.
Of course, some hits did find their way into the set. St. Vincent was able to present numerous songs from her catalog, like "Save Me From What I Want," "Cruel," "Marrow," and "Northern Lights," which featured a "Theremin fight" with Byrne at the song's climax, as the two took turns flailing their arms at the antenna.
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Byrne's long-time fans were also satisfied with staples like the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," "Road To Nowhere" and "This Must Be The Place," which is Byrne's own "The Weight." No other songs cut through it all to create such a warm, communal feeling, with everyone singing along. Even solo tracks like "Like Humans Do" and "Strange Overtones" from his recent collaboration with Brian Eno made the cut.
What was on display Sunday night was that this could easily be more than a one-off collaboration. When the collaboration is this strong and fresh, we can only hope that's the case.
Random notes: -There was no opener. - Annie Clark addressed her hometown crowd after they took the stage for the first of two encores by mentioning her family that was in attendance. Specifically, she mentioned her four-year-old niece, and said that she was that age when she was first exposed to Talking Heads music. Then, during the "Road To Nowhere" finale, as the whole band marched around the stage, Clark was dancing around on stage holding the hand of her four-year-old niece. - Byrne's suit jackets fit much better these days. - When Clark and Byrne introduced the band, they also mentioned each member's other musical projects and mentioned that everyone had records at the merch booth for sale. Now that's supporting independent music.
Up next: more awesome shots from photographer Mike Brooks.