Thursday, September 16, 2004

David Byrne/Sam Phillips show

Thanks to my generous friend Amy, I was able to attend this show that was quite pricey.

Sam Phillips opened and blew me away. I was familiar with her work, but something about the material, or the band, or the setting got the goosebumps up. She's got a beautiful voice, a wry lyrical sensibility, and great hooks, but the stellar instrumentation put it over the top. Keyboard/organist, Stroh violinist, and an incredibly inventive drummer/percussionist, along with Phillips' on guitar, were just fantastic.

I don't remember the drummer's name, but damn. He has a fairly traditional kit, aside from a big-in-diameter-yet-small-in-depth bass drum, with a few interesting add-ons. A tiny hi-hat, a shaker attached to his ankle, some sort of modified snare, and a variety of strikers (bundled sticks, mallets, brushes) gave him an enlarged pallet of sounds with which to work. One song ended with him grinding a stick along the edge of a cymbal for a door hinge squawk effect. It was clear from the audience applause when he was introduced that his contributions were greatly appreciated.

David Byrne was wonderful too, creating a rich sound backed by drummer, bassist, percussionist, and the Tosca Strings. Electrons out to violist Ames Asbell who sang back-up too! Surprisingly, he didn't play much from his new record, but instead relied heavily on his previous record and Talking Heads songs. The audience (from the look of it, they were mostly college and post-college kids during TK's heyday) ate it up. I got a big, unironic grin seeing 45 yr old white guys arrhythmically dancing to "Road to Nowhere".

Two oldie stand-outs for me were "I Zimbra" and "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)". Huge favorites of mine with beautiful arrangements taking advantage of the strings (3 violins, 1 viola, 2 cellos) without ever being schmaltzy. At the end of the show we found out that local composer Stephen Barber did the arrangements. Kudos to him. Byrne's been playing a number of TK songs for years and it was great to hear arrangements that were fresh without completely deconstructing the songs. Barber's original work is definitely worth checking out.

Over the last few tours, Byrne has mostly eliminated material from his early solo albums while increasing the number of TK's songs. Not sure what to make of that.

Many encore songs finishing with "Un di Felice, Eterea" from Verdi's "La Traviata" sung pretty well from a guy that used to just have a strangled yelp way back in '77.

No comments:

Post a Comment