Birmingham Symphony Hall
Anyone who has tickets for any of his UK shows is in for an absolute treat – easily the show of the year and possibly in my top 5 gigs of all time. But first lets talk about opener local girl Laura Mvula. Accompanied only by her long time collaborator on drums, loops, keyboards and occasional guitar she commanded the stage from start to finish. She has a remarkable voice – the closing living singer to Nina Simone.The opening numbers were very electronic jazzy spacey affairs and then she was left alone on stage for Father Father with just her piano. Emotional doesn’t begin to describe it but the final number saw her drummer return to the stage and they played a long drum and voice song with her incredible dancing – it was sexy, rhythmic and heart stopping. Earlier in the set she emotionally told her home town audience that she was last on this stage when she graduated from the conservatoire.She thanked her parents who were in the audience for all the running around to rehearsals for piano and violin and was grateful that they put up with her scraping out endless attempts at Twinkle Twinkle. Still the practise clearly paid off as she got a thunderous standing ovation after her 45 minute set. How many support artists can say that?
Still, the main set beckoned and what a set it was. I won’t say too much about the stage set and the lighting but there were aspects of it that were truly innovative in terms of live performance and it is clear that Byrne has put an awful amount of effort into seeking and achieving a live performance that will live on long in the memory. The band was excellent – 12 musicians on stage including 6 percussionists. None of them sat at all for any of the sow – no conventional drum kit, no wires on show, no speakers visible – just glorious music. In some ways I compare David Byrne to Robert Plant – both revered for their work with their previous bands, both wanting to leave it behind to some extent and both questing for something fresh and challenging. It is true that the loudest applause and the most enthusiasm was reserved for the Talking Heads songs of which there was a fair smattering. However new songs like Every Day is a miracle and Everybody’s coming to my house took on an anthem quality possibly missing from the recorded versions. The finale of Blind and Burning Down the House left the place on the point of combusting and then a double encore pushed it over the top. Joyous doesn’t begin to describe it and I have never seen so many smiling faces as we left the remarkable Symphony Hall. A night to remember.
On their feet from second number in I Zimbra. This is the Symphony Hall – you are supposed to remain in your seats. No chance.
It made me think..
Live music should be a spectacle as well as an aural experience. Credit to Byrne for making such an enjoyable show. Oh and he looks in rude health – slim, slightly tanned and his hair longer than it usually is. Oh and he still dances like some weirdo to Once in a Lifetime.