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Byrne doesn't change when it comes to creativity

Blue Hills Pavillion, Boston, July 31, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
David Byrne may be 66, but he may have about as much musical vision - if not more - than he did 40 years ago as the lead singer of the great, late Talking Heads.

It would be hard to argue otherwise after seeing Byrne in the flesh, touring behind his first studio album in 14 years, "American Utopia."

This was a night of high performance art/high quality music mixing his solo material with that of the Heads.

The artistic part would start with the stark and very spare staging of the stage "walls" behind long metal strands.

As for Byrne, he came out solo seated at a small desk near the rear of a stage in a gray suit, holding a model of a brain as he sat down and cooly sang "Here" from the new disc.

He soon would be joined at varying times by 11 band members in a feast for the eyes. Each was dressed in a suit and barefoot. Most musicians are tethered to a spot onstage during a concert. That was definitively not the case with Byrne and band as the group included three drummers holding a single drum (and sometimes Byrne handled drumming as well as a much bigger drum) and a few percussionists playing everything from congas to gourds plus the usual assortment of guitar, bass and keyboards.

Only no one seemed to stand still for very long. Byrne held center stage most of the time, but not exclusively in a highly choreographed show. That is not to say so planned that it was lifeless. Far from it. One could almost bet the house on that with Byrne.

The choreography came in the form of synchronized dance steps from the troupe with Byrne a full participant.

At times, the entire entourage or a portion thereof would start moving in a circle playing and singing all the while. Sometimes, Byrne was being chased by the others. Let's just say, Byrne kept the show moving.

On one song, Byrne was alone on stage. Well, sort of. On either side, were a few musicians with only their hands or arms and instruments coming through the metal curtain. Inventive to say the least.

As for songs new and old, Byrne has aged very little vocally with his high-pitched voice. New songs ("Everybody's Coming to My House") maintained the funky, sometimes quirky qualities we are so used to from Byrne.

And there was no telling that the chestnuts were of another era ("This Must Be the Place" and especially the closing song of the regular set, "Burning Down the House").

Byrne did not shy away from politics, urging people to vote early on. But he grew far more forceful with the closing and updated take on Janelle Monet's "Hell You Talmbout" where the names of African-American victims of police shootings were enunciated. Powerful stuff.

That was true of the entire set from one of the most inventive and creative musical minds out there. Some things just don't change.