INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Independent APRIL 5, 2009 - by Simon Price
DAVID BYRNE: BRIDGEWATER HALL, MANCHESTER
The former Talking Head still gets people moving but his set is both awesome and snoresome.
There's a great Danny Baker anecdote about the time he went to interview the singer David Byrne, having long suspected that his weirdo act was a put-on. Baker spied on him through the window of his hotel room, and was amazed to see Byrne standing at the centre of a circle of empty chairs, animatedly addressing them one by one. When the writer knocked at the door, Byrne glanced at the chairs, blushed and explained, "Sorry, I just had a few friends round..."
Nevertheless, David Byrne's apparent studied eccentricity has long been an obstacle to fully engaging with him. It's certainly an obstacle to enjoying his recent guest appearances on other people's records (X-Press 2's Lazy, Brighton Port Authority's Toejam), where he's happy to send his more irritating vocal quirks into overdrive, and cash the cheque.
Fortunately, Byrne's current tour is all about his work with Brian Eno, past and present (the duo's current reunion album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today). And while, individually, Byrne and Eno are somewhat overrated, together they made records sufficiently great to seal their legends. This is close, then, to a greatest hits show. Byrne and his band, dressed in shirts and jeans as white as his own hair, like Clockwork Orange droogs (as opposed to his casually brilliant dancers, who look more like cricket chaps and tennis girls from P G Wodehouse) run through a decade-hopping set which alternates between the snoresome and the awesome.
In Strange Overtones, tonight's opener and the Byrne/Eno comeback single, he sings "These beats are out of fashion, this groove is twenty years old" in the knowledge that they aren't and it isn't. And if his meandering musings about what hula hand-movements mean are a little self-consciously kooky, Byrne's a genial host nowadays, happy to allow photography and, to a lesser extent, dancing. "You might want to take a consensus of the people around you." When he returns in a Swan Lake tutu for an encore of Burning Down the House, that consensus becomes unanimous.