Greek Theatre, October 3, 2008
David Byrne has reconnected with fellow traveler Brian Eno to record a fine new album called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. The album is available for free streaming now and will be available in several fixed format configurations soon. Leave it to Byrne and Eno to take another twist at the cycle of album releases. This is their first collaboration in three decades, and the results are sublime.
Byrne brought a fine band to the Greek to explore many of the new songs, as well as a healthy sampling of his prior solo and Talking Heads work. Many of the most complicated, challenging and satisfying Talking Heads songs involved Eno. Byrne has now convinced me to never miss one of his concerts. When he was last in town I went to the Hollywood Bowl with mild expectations, which he exploded. At the more intimate Greek he delivered an extremely clever and rewarding show.
The crack seven member band was attired in white, as were the trio of dancers who wove through many of the songs. Bassist Paul Frazier was tremendous, as was Mark Degli Antoni on keyboards who fleshed out many of the sonic colors. Notably, Byrne was the only guitarist (but for occasional acoustic guitar accompaniment).
The fourth song of the evening “I Zimbra” was intricate both sonically and visually. The performance brought down the house (which was still yet to burn), culminating in a standing ovation. Byrne looked impish in the adulation. The challenge of weaving dancers into modern music is also being explored by Elvis Costello and Twyla Tharp, their collaboration comes to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion later this month.
Byrne reached into the dusty corners of his trick bag and pulled out a great song from his Catherine Wheel collaboration with Tharp. He also reworked his most famous cover version, Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” which is Byrne’s earliest recorded acknowledgement of his black influences.
“Burning Down the House” and “Life During Wartime” lost none of their urgency, and brought out all the karaoke singers in the audience. Same as it ever was, indeed.
Byrne’s voice remains supple with no seeming loss of range. A gorgeous version of “Heaven” featured jangly REMish guitars, and might have been the evening’s highlight.
David Byrne is the epitome of a cool nerd. His geeky gloss does not really hide the clever and inquisitive artist inside. Where is that left field hit single collaboration between Peter Gabriel and David Byrne? Brian Eno will invariably provide the intersection of that much-desired Venn Diagram.