David Byrne – Live at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto Ontario.
Decades ago, as a small boy, I was introduced to Talking Heads through two different relatives on two different occasions (read about it here). It was the early part of the 1980’s and I was reaching an age where I was falling in love with music on a completely new level. I may have been 7 or 8 years old the first time I heard them at my fathers cousins house. His name was Jimmy. We called him cousin Jimmy. He would play records when we visited him in the big, exciting city of Vancouver British Columbia. I was fascinated by the sounds coming out of his stereo, and took a shining to a couple of albums he played that day. He lent me three records. The B-52’s, Talking Heads ”77′ and Talking Heads ‘Fear of Music’. I took them home and was transformed.
Over time, I bought the records, the records became the cassettes, the cassettes became the CD’s. Decades later, MP3’s were downloaded. More time, and Apple Music Subscription provided me with the largest record collection I had ever imagined. Talking Heads was still in heavy rotation. Now in my early 40’s, I picked up a new (used) Technics record player, and the first records to get re-collected were Talking Heads. I was hooked and still couldn’t shake it.
I had enjoyed the music David Byrne had been putting out as a solo artist. I paid attention to the creative work he was doing as an artist and was always impressed. He was on my list. I had missed several opportunities to see him live, and generally didn’t lose sleep because I knew one day I would have the chance, and that chance finally arrived through a message from a friend: “wanna see David Byrne?”.
Money was tight. I almost said no. My friend had a spare ticket that had been purchased for well under the cover price from an out of country ticket reseller intent on unloading whatever remaining tickets they had hoarded – probably already having made a mint over selling some sweet seats. I decided to go. I did not regret that decision…
Our seats were good. Not super close, but in a terrific spot with a solid view of the stage. The stage was empty, bordered by floor to ceiling beads or roping of some kind, giving the impression of tall golden grass.. My thoughts wandered to the Talking Heads live performance movie Stop Making Sense. I imagined David Byrne to come out start it up, and slowly over time a band would appear and the stage would be filled with platforms and equipment and lights and props. I thought David would play his solo work for most of the show and perhaps treat us to a few Talking Heads numbers during an encore. Lights went down, then slowly up in a spot, near the back, where David was seated holding a brain. My heart pounded. So exciting – there he was. Sure enough, over time more players emerged, but, to our surprise and eventual delight, no equipment cluttered the stage. The entire show was simple, minimal. People playing music from wireless instruments they carried with them. Multiple drummers, guitars, instruments of all kinds. All night long, David Byrne and his incredible people playing music moved around the stage in a beautifully choreographed, but overwhelmingly natural live performance that married art, dance, movement and music.
Let’s back up…
After David Byrne opened the show, with an enjoyable couple of songs… I was suddenly stricken by instantly recognizable ‘I Zimbra’. My eyes watered…. I was over the moon with excitement. ‘Slippery People’ made me melt. Transporting me back to my childhood listening to the incredible ‘Speaking in Tongues’ album over and over and over again. I sang every word.
I realized at once that this would be an unforgettable evening. David intertwined decades old Talking Heads songs with his solo songs in an effortless dance between decades. The Talking Heads songs were fresh and new and rewarding to my being a long time fan of the band, while David’s solo music had me yearning to get cracking on re-visiting his catalogue in an exploration of a lost world of well crafted songs.
Song after song I was excited for the experience. David delivered a non-stop performance bridging music, dance, movement and theatre, seamlessly. I was impressed and invigorated as a visual artist to get back into the studio and make some new work, since Music Fuels Art. But this wasn’t over…
The second and final encore of the evening moved me to tears. David Byrne took a side step and together with his fellow musicians, performed a powerful cover of Jannelle Monáes “Hell You Talmbout”. Stunning. Heartbreaking. Empowering.
Watch the Jannelle Monáes video here.
Thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts, David Byrne and your entire group of talented musicians and dancers.
**Read the NOW Magazine review here.
Now go out and buy some Talking Heads records.