David Bryne has become a bit of an éminence grise in various fields. He published a book called Bicycle Diaries a few years ago and undertook a series of steps to encourage urban biking. Most famously, he pointed out that bikes will become ubiquitous when more good looking women are seen riding.
After a career launching Talking Heads, then poking his way through film, photography and opera, he has released a series of solo albums which often capture his quirky perspective. I discovered one of his photography shows in a gallery in Santa Monica a few years ago, with the twist that the visitors decided where the art should be hung. He has also wired buildings for sound in a couple cities, but the sounds were not of his making. The music was literally created by the building’s pipes, walls, floors and wires.
The Scottish-born, American-raised Byrne brings his latest artistic foray to the stage on a current tour. He recently collaborated with St. Vincent on an album called Love This Giant, which is notable for its brassy sound and programmed drum tracks. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) was in the Polyphonic Spree, a loose amalgam of like-minded sonic adventurers.
Love This Giant is equally balanced in terms of songwriting credits, and after the shared singing on the opening track “Who” the duo alternate songs. The album’s songs will work well live, as the arrangements become evocative with concentrated listening. A few tracks after the jangly opening cuts, things smooth out a bit. Byrne draws on his prior work with Brian Eno and Philip Glass; definite elements of minimalism orchestration bubble up. Several of the angular arrangements evoke latter-period Tom Waits. “Lazarus” is especially clever, perhaps because the singers return to a call and response mode. Also featured on the album is the Brooklyn-based afrobeat band Antibalas, which lit up the Broadway stage production of Fela.
The tour will include an eight piece brass section, with the hope that it won’t ‘scare off people afraid of a brass band’ as Byrne puts it. Undoubtedly much of the new album will flesh out the set list, but Byrne promises many familiar songs. One should expect the older songs to take on brassier arrangements.
With a strong fan base in California, it is not surprising that you can catch the show in several cities. In a break from the theatres where most of the tour has been booked, Humphrey’s by The Bay will be one of the more eclectic settings. Same as it ever was!
San Diego: Humphrey’s (Oct 10)
Santa Barbara: Arlington Theatre (Oct 11)
Costa Mesa: Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Oct 12)
Los Angeles: Greek Theatre (Oct 13)