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Review: David Byrne delights crowd at Red Butte Gardens

Published July 16, 2013 3:14 pm

Review • Vibrant show, new material and innovative set keeps concert from devolving into just a nostalgic trip.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The one question any self respecting David Byrne fan from Utah should have been asking before the new wave icon and St. Vincent took the stage at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheater was: When is he pulling out "This Must Be the Place?"

The nostalgia-seekers in the sold-out, 3,000-person venue wouldn't be disappointed Monday night, as Byrne introduced the beloved Talking Heads tune by acknowledging: "This song wasn't written by Brigham Young."

(A bit of Mormon history buff himself, Byrne in 2008 released a soundtrack album to the HBO series "Big Love" composed of original hymns inspired by early Latter-day Saint spirituals.)

But Byrne, touring with his latest album collaborator St. Vincent, a.k.a Annie Clark, wasn't in Utah to mine the past, and their show featuring songs from their 2012 release "Love This Giant" showed the 61-year-old Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer just as restless and innovative as he's ever been — and still able to hold his own with the indie rock scene he helped inspire.

Dressed in black suspenders on top of a shirt and trouser combo white enough to match his hair, Byrne came equipped with a wireless mic, enabling him to shuffle, vamp and, yes, tap dance, anywhere on stage that he pleased.

A highlight was "I Should Watch TV," in which Byrne, carrying on like a televangelist, made hay while delivering his modern spiritual about futile attempts to connect through a television screen.

While most of the crowd likely came already true believers in Byrne-ism, there's no way the show didn't end without adding a few St. Vincent converts.

Generously, Byrne handed the spotlight to Clark throughout the show, introducing the crowd to a true talent with a respectable following of her own. Clark proved to be a natural complement to Byrne, shimmying about in high heels while shredding the guitar on her own original songs, the best of which was the appropriately titled bone crusher "Marrow."

Featured prominently in Byrne and Clark's record, and on stage, was the eight-person horn section. Although "section" seems like an inappropriate description: more like a sentient, eight-headed horn beast. Refusing to be relegated to a stationary platform in the background, the trumpets, saxes, trombones and sousaphone joined in with their own rudimentary choreography, delivering a healthy dollop of funk to the eclectic set list and breathing new life into the Talking Heads classics "Burning Down the House" and "Road to Nowhere," which Byrne and company used to close the set.

With plenty of Talking Heads callbacks sprinkled throughout, Byrne's theatrics mixed with the band's innovative instrumentation kept the set from descending into unabashed nostalgia. Joyously unpredictable right up until the end, Byrne, Clark and the horns marched off stage reprising "Road to Nowhere" like a New Orleans street parade, letting the music echo across the amphitheater long after the mics stopped capturing the sound.


Twitter: @KimballBennion —

David Byrne

Where • Red Butte Garden

When • July 15, 2013.