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Concert Reviews:
David Byrne Fixes A Tasty "Meal" In Ann Arbor

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2008

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ANN ARBOR -- David Byrne introduced his concert Friday (Oct. 24) at the Michigan Theater as "a prix fixe menu...the chef's choice."

Fortunately, he served up a tasty dish indeed.

Typically invention and experimental -- a kind of cerebral goofball with a sly and smart sense of humor -- the former Talking Heads leader played with both aural and visual conventions during the one-hour and 50-minute performance. Promoting "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," his new collaboration with Brian Eno, Byrne surveyed his career with a multi-tasking 10-piece ensemble -- all dressed in white -- that included three dancers and three semi-choreographed singers. A sense of high art mingled with a sweetly playful sensibility that made the show engaging but not so heady as to be confusing.

During "I, Zimbra," for instance, the dancers guided the singers around stage, ultimately laying them on the floor and holding their microphones while they sang. The dancers, and Byrne, moved around in rolling chairs during "Life is Long," while "Once in a Lifetime" was a frenetic showpiece which climaxed with dancer Steve Reker leapfrogging Byrne as he played his guitar.

The visual kinetics never eclipsed the music, however, sublimely performed by Byrne and company as they drew six songs from "Everything That Happens..." and one ("Never Thought") from the album's deluxe edition, along with "Help Me Somebody" from "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts," Byrne's first joint album with Eno, and "My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)" from "The Catherine Wheel," a ballet collaboration with Twyla Tharp.

But it was the Talking Heads selections that, not surprisingly, really fired up the Ann Arbor crowd, whether it was the polyrhythmic punch of "I, Zimbra," "The Great Curve" and "Burning Down the House" or the taut grooves of "Houses in Motion" and "Cross-Eyed and Painless," the pounding rock-funk of "Life During Wartime," the gentle harmonics of "Heaven" and the soulful transcendence of Al Green's "Take Me to the River." If the new material was the meat of Byrne's "meal," these were the side dishes and just desserts that made him a chef whose choices were nothing less than inspired.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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