David Byrne at the Wang Theatre, October 31, 2008
"This ain't no CBGB," David Byrne sang during his late-set dive bomb into "Life During Wartime," and a glance around the immensely classy premises of the Wang Theatre verified it. Byrne and his large band — with three back-up singers and three dancers — were not there to play a stripped-down rock set. Theirs was a highly orchestrated show with a lot of moving parts. As the song goes, "This ain't no foolin' around!"
BRAND OF QUIRK: The show was billed as the music of Byrne and Eno, but the crowd was there
for the Heads' deep cuts.
Or was it? This audience was giddy, and all it took to send everybody into ecstasy was, it seems, a handful of Talking Heads deep cuts. The show was billed as "The Music of David Byrne and Brian Eno" (though there was no Eno in the house, or on the tour — Eno has not graced a stage since the mid '70s), and that suggested the set list would draw from the two albums Byrne has made with Eno (one of them this year's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today). Which it did. But Byrne also dipped deep into the trifecta of long-players Eno produced with the Heads in the late '70s. Despite his never once mentioning the band by name (referring to the tunes as "ones Brian and I did with other musicians"), it was clear that Afro-tinged gems like "Crosseyed and Painless," "The Great Curve," and "Houses in Motion" (all from Remain in Light) were what the partly costumed crowd was there to lose its shit over.
David Byrne's solo act has aged into what can best be described as a classy yet stoic brand of quirk. Where once his strange, bewildered visage looked like Shazam on acid, he now comes across as a pretty game dude, incorporating into his show warm, humming four-part harmonies and avant-precious dance moves that would seem arch and pretentious were it not for his breezy demeanor. From stuffing the Mud Club to packing opera houses, Byrne has spent his career amusing himself with the absurdity of life, so it made sense when he emerged for an encore of "Burning Down the House" in a Phantom of the Opera mask that he sang the song through a glorious shit-eating grin.
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