David Byrne at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

It’s taken me a week to have any idea what to say about this show. As soon as the three dancers cavorted onto the stage at the start of the second song I knew this was going to be one of the best gigs I’d ever seen.

What made it so great? I think it was the balance they maintained throughout. There was theatricality, but just enough theatricality, balanced by humour and goofiness on the part of Byrne and the dancers. There was just enough of the dancers, not on every song; sometimes only one at a time. Sometimes tightly choreographed, sometimes just having fun. The band, all top class musicians as you’d expect but not too many of them (keyboards, bass, drums, percussion; backing singers and dancers all occasionally played acoustic guitars). The lighting – oh, the lighting, not attention-demanding effects, but just moments of colour and darkness when you least expected them. The set – drawn almost entirely from the recent Byrne/Eno collaboration and the best of Talking Heads, particularly their highpoint Remain In Light (which according to some sources was virtually a Byrne/Eno album). The role blurring – sometimes Byrne was a dancer, sometimes the backing singers were choreographed; at one point the dancers ‘stole’ the singer mic stands and had to be chased around the stage. Byrne always has had a knack of drawing attention to something very simple, from his little staccato guitar lines on the early albums, standing in a big suit in Stop Making Sense, and this time, sitting on an office chair (alongside two dancers in identical chairs) and slowly turning round between verses. Finally the song sequencing which climbed from mid tempo to mad with occasional mini peaks and troughs throughout the show.   When it couldn’t get higher than the final encore of Burning Down the House (completel with tutus), a sombre but warm Everything That Happens … with the whole ensemble singing brought down the curtain in a decisive and valedictory way.

The audience had adopted Byrne as a Glagwegian from the moment he first stepped onstage (he was born in, I think, Dumbarton). He had almost a five minute ovation before he even opened his mouth. Not that he was immune from the Glasgow irreverence. As he gave one typically stuttering preamble someone shouted ‘Get to the point, David!’.  He then admitted that he was only filling time while instruments were changed behind him.

There are lots of clips on YouTube (encouraged by Byrne), especially of the tutu-clad encore, but here’s my favourite Heads song, The Great Curve.

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