The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
David Byrne & St. Vincent touring collaborative LP
By JACK CLINCH, Editor in Chief
Published: October 24, 2012
The 5th Avenue Theatre hosted a rare rock n’ roll show on Wednesday, Oct. 17. David Byrne, of Talking Heads, and Annie Clark, who performs under the moniker St. Vincent, have been touring their recently-released collaborative album, Love This Giant.
Joining them onstage was an eight-piece brass band, which their LP is centered around.
Perhaps better than hearing their album played live was the simpler truth of seeing them both onstage at the same time. With only one LP of shared material, their live act featured almost as much of Byrne’s and Clark’s own previous work.
It was a very showy show, with every moment and song choreographed.
Byrne wore a headset microphone and usually didn’t play guitar, so his hands were empty during most of the songs, leaving him free to unleash his strange, slow, precise dance moves on the audience. His clothing fit him just fine, by the way. No big suit like the one from Stop Making Sense.
Clark tuned down the ‘sexy-evil-guitar robot’ character she plays at St. Vincent shows, but still did her signature, rock-goddess-hall-of-fame move of scooting around the stage without moving her shoulders, seeming to hover around during guitar features. All in high heels, somehow.
The band stayed busy all night long, striking different poses for every song. They loitered behind Byrne and Clark like office workers around a water cooler during “Optimist,” stood still and stared all over the place during “The Forest Awakes” and laid down, slowly rising, during ”Cheerleader.”
Those onstage cast huge shadows on the plain white backdrop, giving them, especially Clark, with her poof of curly black hair, a larger-than-life image.
The concert’s best moments were during the songs they wrote on their own, the ones that made their pairing a really exciting one.
Byrne was the frontman of Talking Heads, one of the most influential and best-remembered bands of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. He’s been releasing various solo material and collaborating with other artists in the years since the band’s break-up.
Especially notable were two from Talking Heads: “This Must Be the Place” and “Burning Down the House.” The first of the two was played mid-concert, yet elicited a standing ovation from the audience of mostly grown-ups. The second was the closer of their first encore (of two) and was the night’s climax. Clark, in between songs, mentioned that she first heard the song in 1985.
St. Vincent is a mix of cheesy drums and hazy backdrops, with Clark’s fuzzy, disjointed guitar and capable vocals front and center. She doesn’t have nearly the songwriting chops that Byrne does, but that’s hardly a criticism.
“Cruel”, her most accessible and best-known song to date, seemed to be made for a brass band. The central riff, played on electric guitar, sounds like a saxophone anyway.
Their collaborative effort isn’t equal to the sum of its parts, but Love This Giant can’t help but have its moments of brilliance. Album highlights “Who,” “The Forest Awakes” and “Lightning” were even livelier in concert. The music had the benefit of being recorded with instruments that are even more fun in person – especially the sousaphone.
This was no feeble last gasp of touring for the 60-year-old Byrne, who can still take care of business, even more than three decades after releasing his first Talking Heads album.
Clark is a talent without a ceiling, and she was right in her song “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood” that she “can’t see the future but I know it’s got big plans for me.”
Dozens in attendance couldn’t remain seated throughout and spent the whole show standing or dancing in the aisles. But such is life in a venue that is perfectly suited to the artist’s pedigree, but woefully inadequate to host the show’s gleeful energy.