Review: David Byrne, St. Vincent took down the house
05:00 AM, Jun 25, 2013
On a temperate June night, with the rain holding off, not a soul seemed to be upset to be packed inside the Eastman Theatre. Prog-rockers David Byrne and St. Vincent were all about feeding the soul with their upbeat and thought-provoking lyrics, a magnanimous stage presence and punchy, bright brass accompaniment a main feature of their 2012 album collaboration, Love This Giant.
The two are an unlikely duo. David Byrne, whose band Talking Heads helped define the new wave movement in the ’80s, is at 61 a rock idol known for quirky projects. But the notoriety hasn’t gone to his head. “Don’t take pictures with your iPad while blocking others’ view,” he warned before the concert, humorously offering permission to record the Day 5 headliner at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
St. Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, is about half Byrne’s age and offers this joint project a contemporary rock credibility. With fluffed hair, a mini black dress tightly around her like a wrapped gift, and a clear but tortured voice, she’s definitely the rock star on stage.
Byrne and St. Vincent fully embraced each other’s individuality. Clark even took the lead on the Byrne and Brian Eno song “Strange Overtones.” The two not only displayed great chemistry, but somehow their stark differences allowed for an endearing relationship on stage. They also took turns praising each other’s works.
The most important musical aspect to come out of their collaboration has been the use of brass accompaniment. Eight performers, including sousaphone/tuba player and Eastman graduate John Altieri, took to the stage in highly choreographed movements, having fully memorized the music. Because the brass writing was much more than simple oom-pahs, featuring brass interludes and chorales with beautifully crunched harmonies and lots of syncopation throughout the set, their movements on stage were all the more impressive. They hunched and marched around in circles, laid on the floor and took turns singing.
Their choreography more than made up for Byrne, whose stiff dancing had to be part of his schtick.
With the night consisting of tunes from both Byrne’s and Clark’s prior projects, the brass addition was a welcomed layer to songs well known. It filled out and added extra power to Talking Heads favorites like “Wild Wild Life” and “Burning Down The House.” The audience took to the front and the wings of the auditorium to dance and sing along. And the standing ovations that accompanied all four encores was indication of the good feelings that exuded from the stage.