The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 38

Talking Heads | Rathskellar | January 21, 1977
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  October 26, 2006


The Talking Heads circa 1977
At one point in time, Kenmore Square’s late lamented Rathskellar hosted jazz shows. But by 1977, it was becoming home to Boston’s underground-music scene, the kind of place you’d see a band like Talking Heads, who started as a trio, had just added a fourth member (ex–Modern Lovers keyboard player Jerry Harrison) and were already creating a buzz around CBGB’s in New York. And yet, recalls Phoenix/FNX staffer David Bieber, “There were more people on stage than there were in the audience.” The audience was Bieber and two friends, one a potential Heads manager. “They played like the place was filled,” recalls Bieber. “They weren’t compromised by the lack of attendance and that was enthralling.” Back then, David Byrne sang twitchy songs like “Psycho Killer” in a n-filled yelp. But it wasn’t full-bore punk. “They had a distinct rhythm, but not punk-explosive,” says Bieber. “They had this art-school sensibility.” Which they took every which way over time — to world music, to expanded line-ups, to funkier, polyrhythmic realms, and to big suits. If anyone tells you they saw Talking Heads at the Rat in ’77, chances are he or she is lying.
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