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The Telegraph APRIL 14, 2009 - by Bernadette McNulty
DAVID BYRNE: LIVE AT FESTIVAL HALL
David Byrne, the man who put the funk into punk, magically transforms the Festival Hall into a steamy club.
"My name is David and I'll be your waiter for this evening." As an introduction to a pop concert it was as charmingly surreal as you could expect from the man who put the funk into punk and the wonky into pop.
Bringing David Byrne in to headline the annual Ether festival of experimental music was a canny move - the influence of Byrne and his former band Talking Heads has barely waned on the alternative music scene since their heyday thirty years ago and, if anything, has dominated the current generation of herky-jerky guitar bands, such as LCD Soundsystem and Franz Ferdinand.
Byrne has aged majestically into a silver fox, his shock of white hair reflected in the all-white dress code of his band and singers. The starter for the evening's menu was his recent album with long-term collaborator and fellow musical maverick Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Their sound has softened into warm gospel and folk-inflected hymns, and Byrne's voice has matured into a lovely, buttery warble, like an off-kilter Roy Orbison.
Although the fifty-six-year-old has long abandoned oversized suits, he was not about to roll out a conventional gig. The stage was rushed by three dancers, who transformed the show into an avant-garde performance. Like naughty imps they wove their moves among the singers and the band, breaking down the barriers on stage and with the audience, acting as a physical manifestation of Byrne's imagination: playful, childlike and surreal.
Simultaneously, Byrne began to weave in the hypnotic, polyrhythmic funk of his influential '80s work, drawing the audience to their feet and down to the front of the stage, magically transforming the Festival Hall into a steamy club - no mean feat. Like a demented prophet, Byrne yelped his stream-of-consciousness lyrics, perhaps at its best on the timeless Once In A Lifetime, engaging the audience's mind as much their bodies.
Transfixed, they didn't want to let their holy prophet go. Drenched in sweat, the band came back on for three encores, including an apt Burning Down The House and, for the final number, donned tutus - as you do. None of it made much sense, but it was a night of delirious, intoxicating, weird fun reflected back in the enigmatic smile of the king of the silver foxes as he finally took his bow and the musical feast was over.