David Byrne was behind a small desk, alone on the massive empty stage and barely transferring. He sat just like the late Spalding Gray, his onetime up to date on New York's downtown artwork scene (and like Byrne, the topic of one in all Jonathan Demme's groundbreaking efficiency movies), and as Gray sometimes did, he centered on a prop because the backdrop reworked round him: Holding a mannequin of a human mind, Byrne pointed to 1 spot after one other and sang, "Here is a area that's seldom used...right here is an space of nice confusion...right here is an space that wants consideration."
The track "Here" is one in all a number of on Byrne's newest album, American Utopia, that turns the main focus inward, the speaker inspecting how he thinks, behaves and dances -- the higher to watch, on different songs, the unusual and sometimes upsetting conduct of others. In a live performance at Brooklyn's Kings Theatre on Sept. 17 that devoted ample consideration to Byrne's early years with Talking Heads however nonetheless felt very a lot of this second, Byrne and a couple of dozen bandmates embodied the singer's beliefs -- exuberance, cooperation, range and curiosity -- whereas acknowledging forces outdoors the venue selling simply the other. All this whereas paying as a lot consideration to showmanship as he did in that Demme movie, Stop Making Sense.
While he carried out that opening track, collaborators snuck onstage, parting the beaded-curtain backdrop to emerge in all-gray fits (and naked toes) similar to Byrne's. They had stuffed the stage by the set's second quantity, the surprising U.Ok. dance hit "Lazy," and their evocation of a army marching band clicked thrillingly into place for "I Zimbra," the primary of many songs drawn from the Talking Heads catalog.
Their formations had been choreographed by Brooklynite Annie-B Parson, whose earlier work with Byrne contains the brass-band tour he mounted with St. Vincent and his 2008 Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno stage present, the topic of his live performance movie Ride, Rise, Roar. Here, Parson devoted a lot of her consideration to 2 backup singers who doubled as dance soloists, typically giving them cryptic hand and arm actions that recalled Byrne's well-known strikes in Stop Making Sense. If Byrne himself was generally too centered on a track to match his companions' strikes, he was absolutely dedicated to some impressively athletic bits elsewhere within the present, just like the hopscotchy backward dance on "I Should Watch TV," the place his toes whipped round rapidly sufficient they'd have stored hula hoops aloft.
"Lazy" apart, Byrne solely did one different track from an album credited to him as a solo artist earlier than this new one: A buoyant "Like Humans Do," from Look Into the Eyeball, might have had severe Byrne followers wishing for different songs from his solo years. But few would fault him for pleasing the group with Heads favorites like "Burning Down the House" and "Once in a Lifetime"; and a kind of outdated hits did double-duty as an indication that, as Byrne put it, he wasn't as much as any Milli Vanilli shenanigans: The singer says he realized months in the past that some followers thought he was fleshing out the band with samples or prerecorded playback tracks. So earlier than launching right into a walloping "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)," Byrne launched his band members one after the other, every of them including his or her beat to the polyrhythmic groove being assembled earlier than our ears.
With the title of his new report and the optimistic manner he launched it to the world (he gave a collection of multimedia shows, titled "Reasons to be Cheerful," that showcased innovation and community-building across the globe), an off-the-cuff observer would possibly accuse Byrne of wishful considering when it got here to the state of the world. But whereas the songwriter used humor as a political software (in "Dog's Mind") and pushed easy steps like voter registration, two of the evening's most fascinating moments voiced horror and outrage: For the brand new album's haunting "Bullet," which mixes graphic imagery with on a regular basis particulars in its elegy for a capturing sufferer, the singer was illuminated by a naked mild bulb as his bandmates marched dolefully across the stage's periphery. And for the second encore, as an alternative of sending followers off with one other biggest hit, Byrne lined Janelle Monae's protest anthem "Hell You Talmbout": As the band pounded out an insistent beat, Byrne or pairs of band members would step ahead, shouting the names of black victims of violence and imploring the group to "Say his identify! Say his identify! Say his identify!"