David Bryne brought the music concert of the year to Merriweather Post Pavilion recently for a second visit to the DC metro area after an appearance at The Anthem earlier in the year.
The former frontman of the Talking Heads recruited another 11 musicians to form a human chain that paraded, pranced, and pounced its way through a thrilling 21-song set that provided an exhaustive exploration of David’s career while highlighting his innovative and independent spirit.
David began the show with “Here” from American Utopia, his 11th solo album, released in March via Todo Mundo and Nonesuch Records. He started the show alone in darkness, seated at a table, and as the lights emerged, he appeared barefoot in a suit, examining a model of a human brain, with a scholarly inquisitiveness that suited him very well.
And it’s a lively if ponderous song, as well. David collaborated with Brian Eno and Oneohtrix Point Never for the new stuff from American Utopia, and both collaborators appear to have strengthened his natural flow and rhythm in addition to encouraging his love of thoughtful phrasing.
Dressed in matching suits, dancers and musicians slowly joined David after the first number, and the concept for the show became clear — 12 mobile musicians creating music in a line that sometimes zigged and sometimes zagged, occasionally moving in unison and occasionally acting independently but as gears in a greater machine. The idea is not too far afield from Stop Making Sense, the famous concert movie where the Talking Heads build their set from the ground up as each song takes them to a progressively higher place.
Speaking of the Talking Heads, it isn’t long before David’s longtime admirers find satisfaction in the performance of a pair of Talking Heads songs when David performed “I Zimbra,” one of the his former band’s very best songs from their third album, Fear of Music, and “Slippery People,” which is so ridiculously good although you may have forgotten how much so if you haven’t heard it in a while.
All in all, David performed seven songs from the Talking Heads, later pairing “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” one of the greatest modern pop songs ever written, and the anthemic “Once in a Lifetime,” from Speaking in Tongues and Talking Heads’ fourth studio album, Remain in Light, respectively. David closed the main set with the catchy but cautionary “Blind,” from Talking Heads eighth album Naked, and “Burning Down the House” from consistently excellent Speaking in Tongues. He surprised with the addition of “The Great Curve” from Remain in Light in the encore.
The very full house at the Merriweather pavilion jumped to their feet for every one of these songs and sang with passionate fervor. As earnestly thrilling as they were, many of the new songs fit seamlessly in the musical language of Mr. Byrne, and there were several times where a melody or a chain reaction among the dozen performers on stage jolted the audience to their feet or into dance, caught in the grip of an irresistible beat.
Standout selections among the new songs include the cheery “Everybody’s Coming to My House,” a celebration of inclusiveness and good company, and “I Dance Like This,” a very new wavey number from a man who was very good at subverting new wave constructions. Thematically, David is very much in line with his early days — he’s still interested and concerned with society, business, expectations, and experiences. Perhaps, however, he’s more sanguine, more mature, and more wise than ever. And he invests those qualities along with a generous and gregarious spirit in a very good show indeed.
David is in Boston tonight, Aug. 1, as he zips through the United States to close his North American tour on Oct. 10 in Austin. There are still plenty of opportunities to see him on what has been a long and winding tour! Don’t miss this incredible show.
Here are some pictures of David Byrne performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, July 28, 2018. Celebrate the return of a musical hero!