It felt like a matinee screening of a brilliant film. St. Vincent's Annie Clark and David Byrne found a surprising number of empty seats dotting the Segerstrom Concert Hall on Friday night. In the audience, mostly grown-up Talking Heads fans — much more sober tonight than in their '80s heyday — more relaxed, and sitting down for most of the show. The “rager” show for the kids will be Saturday night at the Greek Theater, undoubtedly. But this takes nothing away from Friday night's performance, a gem turned in by a pair of artists that stake their claim at the tangent of pop and high art.
Eight-piece brass ensemble and all, Byrne and Clark played much of their 2012 collaboration Love This Giant. Also a few St. Vincent songs, David Byrne solo pieces, and Talking Heads classics — “Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place),” “Burning Down the House” and “Road to Nowhere.”
Every second of the 90+ minute set was choreographed (few artists recognize the kinetic advantages of an eight-piece brass ensemble the way Byrne does) with the horn players performing step routines and bobbing and weaving and settling in patterns around the stage, backs turned or in a huddle, one time even laying supine on the stage floor. This production bore the trademark of David Byrne
But it was Annie Clark standing most in the spotlight, shimmying across the stage in heels and an indigo sleeveless dress, a porcelain doll strapped to a Gibson SG unleashing Robert Fripp leads as she croons like a Broadway songstress. Triple threat indeed! Clark's compositions, particularly symphonic songs like “Cruel” and “Cheerleader,” found added oomph and texture from the horn ensemble.
It was Byrne who finally got the crowd on their feet, first by dancing a spaz-monkey jig that everyone recognized from Stop Making Sense, during “I Am an Ape”; and later with “Naive Melody,” he had the whole auditorium calmly bouncing and shoulder-shaking to this Heads' classic. Perhaps the most intense moment of the evening came during “Northern Lights” where Byrne and Clarke engaged each other in a theramin duel that brought the set to a close in shrieks and hollers.
The band came out for two encores; Clark and Byrne played a number each — “Cruel” and “The Party” for Clark — and for Byrne, “Burning Down the House” and “Road to Nowhere.” The house took to its feet for the classic Heads' tunes; rhythmic first pumping ensued for a few minutes, but then the show ended. They clapped and waved, and then and it was time for bed.
Weekend in the Dust
Save Me From What I Want (St. Vincent)
Strange Overtones (Byrne/Eno)
I Am an Ape
Marrow (St. Vincent)
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
The Forest Awakes
Like Humans Do
I Should Watch TV
The One Who Broke Your Heart
Outside Time and Space
Cruel” (St. Vincent)
Burning Down the House
Road to Nowhere
Grown up Heads' fans living large in south County.
Critical Bias: Talking Heads has a permanent place in my all-time Top Five favorite bands.