David Byrne at the Metropolis in Montréal on October 30th 2008. CREDIT
David Byrne plays the Songs of Byrne and Eno
Count Basie Theatre
Red Bank, NJ
“We’re going to do material that Brian and I worked on together or with other musicians…” David Byrne announced at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre on Monday night, the closest he’ll make it to Manhattan on this leg of a US tour. Here, he paused. (“Like who?” demanded a voice from the balcony.) “…some years ago,” Byrne finished lamely. “Strange Overtones,” the lead single from Byrne and Eno’s new collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was the keynote. “These beats are 20 years old,” Byrne sang, almost apologetically. Most were even older, the band diving headlong into Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra,” still impeccably propulsive after three decades.
Decked in solid white—ditto his 10 piece troupe—Byrne was mega-moderne as ever, despite the songs’ ages. Mostly, they recreated their original functions: to cut their singer loose amid clattering Afro-psychedelia and let him relax. Byrne might not be an alien neurotic anymore, but gentility has its costs, too, and “The Songs of Byrne and Eno” tour is the bailout. Byrne’s twitches, yelps, and squall-guitar (deftly channeling Adrian Belew) during numbers from 1980’s Remain in Light earned mid-set ovations, though no outright dancing until later. (Despite being named for a swing-band leader, the 80-year old theater—built before legroom was invented—discouraged it.) Byrne’s own dancing trio seemed to be vamping mainly, adding synchronized routines—like spinning slowly in desk chairs or holding mic stands aloft over the backing singers lying on the stage floor.
In other words, David Byrne was right solid. The hits arrived (“Life During Wartime,” “Once In A Lifetime”). So did the occasional novelty (a live arrangement of the sample-heavy “Help Me Somebody” from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts). Likewise, former Soul Coughing sampler genius Mark De Gli Antoni did a proper job channeling Eno through his own electro-acoustic voice. As posited by Byrne and Eno lo these many years ago, the future is now and always has been. —Jesse Jarnow