David Byrne: Live Last Night


Live Last Night

We know Ted Leonsis is D.C.'s best sports owner, but now we know something else: He's a David Byrne fan. At Byrne's show at Wolf Trap last night, Leonsis took a seat around sixth row center during DeVotchka's opening set. The savvy Caps owner sat politely through the Denver combo's gypsy-indie rock, but he -- like almost everyone else -- bopped happily along to Byrne's continuation of the successful "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" tour, based on his collaboration with seminal pop eccentric Brian Eno.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Ted and the near-capacity crowd even deserve a few kudos, since they didn't let the show's overreliance on Talking Heads classics and frivolous dance routines get in the way of a good time.

Of course, an entire evening devoted to mining the more obscure melodic nuggets of the Byrne/Eno mind-meld might not have filled up the Filene Center (where "Burning Down the House" takes on a whole new meaning). So, hearing the lush, rolling choruses of the duo's recent gems "One Fine Day" and "Life Is Long" plus two pieces from 1981's spine-tingling "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" amongst a series of predictable Heads standards were rousing highlights -- and about as heady as mainstream, outdoor summer rock gets.

Byrne and his sizable troupe of musicians/percussionists/dancers (clad in white to presumably match their leader's shock of hair) have been performing this show since last fall -- including a stop in D.C. last November -- so the set's air of workmanlike rigidity was understandable.

Harder to fathom were certain dance interludes, in which leaping and flailing felt like little more than attempt to perk up a few tired tunes. That's the kind of crutch a first-rate artist like Byrne has rarely been guilty of leaning on.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 7, 2009; 3:30 PM ET Live Last Night
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I've always liked Roxy Music and The Talking Heads. For that matter, I've always liked Brian Eno and David Byrne, preferring the music they make as they whistle to themselves while whittling for whittling's sake, to most music acts. I think you know the ones I mean. The acts who pass themselves off as artists. Now, certainly these 2 aren't the only 2 with talent in the world. But their talent does go beyond being able to walk and talk, with a 60 pound sample of the contents of Captain Morgan's treasury chest strapped around their neck. So a few pointless dance routines on their stage should not be cause for concern. Besides, isn't that what audiences have come to expect? What, you would prefer to watch a guy pace back and forth across the stage in front of you, cursing the day he was born, without the main attraction, the dancers? Who would show up for that? Certainly less, and much less I might add, than who'd show up for an Eno/Byrne dissertation. At least they don't curse the day they were born for a living. What a painful job that must be.

Johnny Transistor,
June 7, 2009

Posted by: JohnnyTransistor | June 7, 2009 4:49 PM

Having seen THeads several times a lifetime ago, and Byrne once (Rei Momo tour), I enjoyed every minute. Granted, I'd have preferred What a Day That Was to My Big Hands, but I was not sorry Psycho Killer didn't show up. And the dancers... come on, lighten up. This is the guy who did Artists Only. Who knows, maybe he's painting, painting again. And ending with Everything was perfect. All in all, a splendid time and I felt twenty-five years younger for nearly two hours.

Posted by: prcauch | June 7, 2009 6:38 PM

This was my third time I've seen David and he never fails to disappoint. It was the smallest lineup though. I first saw him with TH in 1983 (from the same tour that delivered "Stop Making Sense"), and that will never be matched in excellence. Second time was in 1992 for the Uh-Oh tour where he had a phenomenal horn backup section. So this was a little more subdued than the others. My suspicions were also correct: The tunes from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts do NOT translate well to the stage. I would have preferred the original samplings, frankly.

Posted by: novatom1 | June 8, 2009 7:13 AM

What impressed me most about the show was how much fun everyone was having. The all-white outfits, the dancers, the choreographed staging, and of course, the music was amazing. It seemed like David Byrne was doing exactly what he wanted to do, and I was happy to go along for the ride. I was already having a great time, but then to see it so readily apparent that everyone on stage was having a great time too, it just completed a kind of "circuit". It was a great night. It's Monday morning now, and I'm still smiling... :-)

Posted by: LittleBirdie | June 8, 2009 10:58 AM

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