Whether with his previous band or on his own, David Byrne has not looked at a stage as just a place to play his songs on, but explore all possibilities to present his music in person. He said earlier this year that his upcoming tour was going to be the most ambitious since the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense outing. By the time he came to Red Rocks for 2 sold out shows, we found out it wasn’t an empty promise.
This was a stage set up like you’ve probably never seen before. No drum riser, amps, or mics. It’s a bare dais, framed on three sides by bead-like curtains that slowly rose from floor to ceiling. No pyrotechnics save for red, blue and white lights, triggered by remotes in the shoulder pads of the grey suits the band wore. The large Red Rocks video screen was turned off tonight. All eyes on the stage.
The evening started with Byrne sitting at a small table singing Here, from American Utopia, to a human brain.
“Now it feels like a bad connection/No more information now/As it passes through your neurons/Like a whisper in the dark/Raise your eyes to one who loves you/It is safe right where you are.”
From this point, members of the band slowly began to emerge from the wings, with each song, the numbers grew. The group, total number 11, was an incredible mash up of rock n’ roll outfit and marching band. Drummers (at times a half dozen) and keyboardists had instruments mounted on themselves by apparatus, everyone wireless. All moving around the stage in smart, quirky, choreography.
Songs from Byrne’s solo catalog and collaborative sides with St. Vincent and Fatboy Slim were met enthusiastically. But when he dipped into Talking Heads territory, the crowd turned into a dance party for 9000.
I Zimbra and Slippery People came early. Midset came This Must Be The Place and Once In A Lifetime, leaving one to wonder how could it get any better.
Blind and Burning Down The House wrapped up the show. The Great Curve was the last song of the first encore, and if the night ended there, everyone would have been extremely satisfied. But the entire band came back one more time. They lined up across the stage with only drums for accompaniment and put their stamp on Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout.
Byrne and his band chanted out the names of African Americans who have been killed by police in America, followed by “Say his name”: “Trayvon Martin, say his name. Amadou Diallou, say his name. Eric Garner, say his name.”
A dramtic end to an incrcedible night.