Friday, February 20, 2009

Same as it ever was

So what did you get for your last birthday? A new tie? Maybe a nice dinner out? A piece of chocolate cake? I've got a girlfriend better than that, and nothing is better than this: David Byrne at Benaroya Hall.

As you know, Michelle took me to Byrne's Seattle concert on Wednesday night, my birthday, and it was one of the all-time great presents.

Michelle is such a huge fan of Byrne -- and especially of his groundbreaking 1970s and '80s band Talking Heads -- that she was afraid I'd consider the tickets a gift for herself. Like if I took her to a Bob Dylan show for her birthday (which I might have done, come to think of it). But no, I always loved the Talking Heads too, and except for the famous 1984 movie "Stop Making Sense" I'd never seen Byrne in concert.

Wednesday's show was everything I hoped. He brilliantly mixed classic Talking Heads stuff with music from last year's album "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today." (That's a terrific record, by the way, one of my favorites of the year. I was surprised to find just now that I didn't include on my Best of 2008 list, but now I remember I put the list together before I heard it; a friend, responding to my list, turned me on to "Everything That Happens.")

At 56 now, Byrne has barely changed from his classic "Stop Making Sense" look and sound, except for his now-white hair. Still whip-thin, constantly in motion, fluid and jangly, he looks like he could still rock a really big suit. I thought about wearing my own big suit to the show, but somewhere along the line it turned into a really small suit.

The Talking Heads may be no more, but the instrumentation, staging and showmanship Wednesday night were all vintage. Byrne played electric or acoustic guitar most of the night, backed by bass, keyboards, two drummers, three backup vocalists and three remarkable dancers. All 11 wore white (slim white pants and shirts for the men; short white dresses for the women), and they executed precise, intricate and energetic moves throughout the two-hour show. Every second seemed choreographed, and beautifully. His collaborations with Twyla Tharp weren't for nothing.

You may ask yourself, is this my rock venue? Benaroya Hall, normally home of the Seattle Symphony, turned out to be a wonderful host for a new-wave concert. The place is beautiful, and it held its great sound from the standing O that openend the show through the four encores including the scorcher "Burning Down the House."

Byrne's voice was supple and rich as it ever was. The concert goes in my Pantheon for sure. Thank you, baby, for an awesome birthday.

Last year we went to Paris. Gosh, what'll we do when I turn 50?

Here's a taste of Byrne back in the day, "Girlfriend is Better," from "Stop Making Sense."


freda said...

"I thought about wearing my own big suit to the show, but somewhere along the line it turned into a really small suit."

That is a problem I am all too familliar with.

freda said...

now that I have dsl I can actually get the videos, it is great. thanks.