Posts Tagged ‘David Byrne’

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“This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!” Talking Heads ‘Remain in Light.’ released on 10/8/80, The Talking Heads released their fourth studio album and arguably their strongest and most influential full length – “Remain in Light”. This time the band, along with producer Brian Eno, decided to experiment with African polyrhythms and recorded the instrumental tracks as a series of samples and loops. Additional musicians were frequently used throughout the studio sessions. The album spawned two singles – “Once in a Lifetime” and “Houses in Motion” but its other compositions such as as the 1-3 opening sequence of “Born Under Punches, “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve” that really makes for “Remain in Light” as such a must hear album. Watch The Talking Heads perform “The Great Curve” live in Dortmund from 1980.

The seeds of Talking Heads‘ landmark “Remain in Light” album were planted on the band’s previous record, 1979’s “Fear of Music”. But the year away from the studio, plus a change of locale for basic recording, made a world of difference in the end. Talking Heads went into their fourth album with the intention of proving once and for all that they were a band; they emerged as a different entity, continuing on this same path for the rest of their too-brief career.
Following the release of “Fear of Music” in August 1979 – their most successful album yet in a two-year span that was continually yielding bigger sales figures and more fans – Talking Heads were, more and more as time went on, hearing that David Byrne was essentially a gifted but eccentric frontman taking charge of the three other musicians who happened to play on his records. The band, with producer Brian Eno on board, set out to prove that they were four singular minds driving toward one shared purpose.

So, they tightened up. They got funky. They set up shop in Nassau. They surrounded “Remain in Light‘s” eight songs with a worldly blend of global pop, post-punk, American R&B and artsy experimentalism augmented by a handful of session players on horns and percussion. And they played around with loops and samples, still mostly unheard of at the time, which gave the album the otherworldly feeling that the entire project was shipped in from another time and place, nowhere near the end-of-the-century New York City that the group had come to identify with so closely.
But it’s not such a dramatic leap that the dots can’t be connected between “Fear of Music” and “Remain in Light”. In fact, “I Zimbra,” from the former, was a launching point for the latter, with the band members jamming on the song, seeing where it would take them. Along with Byrne’s recent collaborations with Eno, which would be released in 1981 as “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, it served as both an expansion to the group’s previous work and an opening to a brave new world.

Inspired by Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, the music on “Remain in Light” took on a more jam-based and fluid approach. Hip-hop, which began creeping into NYC culture at the time, also left its mark, as the eight tracks shifted, twisted and transformed into new shapes at every turn. As influential as it was revolutionary, the LP charted new musical territory for anyone interested in the sound of a dozen genres colliding and then coming together.
From the opening “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” featuring a particularly elastic bass line by Tina Weymouth, and the frenetic “Crosseyed and Painless” to “Once in a Lifetime,” which received tons of MTV airplay at the time, and the New-Wave-meets-world-music “Houses in Motion,” “Remain in Light” unfolds as a singular piece of pop music on an entirely different plain. No other record released in 1980 sounded like it; all these years later, artists are still trying to catch up.
Lyrically, the album drifted into original territory too, with Byrne combing a mix of his existential, stream-of-conscious and art-school playbooks to come up with a work that defied expectation and circumvented explanation. As he sings on “Once in a Lifetime,” “You may ask yourself, How did I get here?” There’s no easy answer, but the album changed Talking Heads forever.
The album set up the group for its breakthrough with its next LP, 1983’s “Speaking in Tongues”, which included Talking Heads’ only Top 10 hit “Burning Down the House.” That then spawned a popular tour that was later documented in the movie and album “Stop Making Sense”. The musical ideas laid out on “Remain in Light” provided the foundation for Talking Heads’ crisscrossing into other genres (including Americana and straightforward rock ‘n’ roll) before leadership issues which were never smoothed over — led to their breakup in 1991.

On their first three albums, Talking Heads made anxious, self-aware art-punk with enough pop appeal to offset the oddness. Led by yelping frontman David Byrne, whose exaggerated normal-guy persona signalled a profound discomfort with the modern world, the onetime CBGB regulars were weirdoes working within the confines of classic rock. Their music wasn’t for everyone, but by 1979, they’d notched a couple of minor hits and edged toward the mainstream.

With their landmark fourth album, “Remain In Light” Talking Heads changed everything and nothing all at once. Produced by Brian Eno, who’d helmed the group’s previous two LPs, it was something truly rare: a radical departure that nevertheless felt like a continuation of and improvement on everything that had come before.

“Remain In Light” was born at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, where Byrne and his bandmates — keyboardist Jerry Harrison and the husband-and-wife drum-and-bass team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth — arrived song-less and ready to jam. This communal approach was a curious, given that Byrne had typically brought in nearly finished compositions and that he’d recently hinted he might be done with the group.

His most recent project had been the Eno collaboration “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts”, an experimental album heavily influenced by African sounds. That music found its way into the improvisational new Talking Heads tracks, though the extent to which the group was consciously trying to make an African-inspired record remains a point of debate. Byrne went so far as to include a bibliography of books on African art and culture with press releases for the album; Frantz and Weymouth have since downplayed the overt influence of African music.

Remain In Light” doesn’t sound much like the three Talking Heads records that came before and it doesn’t sound anything like other post-punk or New Wave albums released circa 1980. It’s heavy on single-chord polyrhythmic jams, light on traditional pop structures or hooks. Eno constructed the tracks by looping rhythmic sections and layering instrumentation — a method that initially left Byrne unsure of how or what to sing.

Inspired by Southern preachers, the Watergate tapes and some of those heady African texts he’d studied with Eno, Byrne wrote and recorded most of his lyrics after the group had returned from the Bahamas. His words have a freeform, impressionistic, cut-and-paste quality, but even so, “Remain In Light” is a record with very recognizable — and very Talking Heads — themes of alienation and the search for identity. Byrne’s every bit as perplexed, frightened and amused by the world as he was on the 1979 apocalyptic funk workout “Life During Wartime.” He’s taking his anxieties on holiday — not giving them the day off.

Byrne’s vocals weren’t the only overdubs. There were horns, extra percussion bits, female background vocals and stunning synth-treated solos from avant-garde guitar hero Adrian Belew, who’d played with the likes of Frank Zappa and King Crimson. When the band hit the road to promote the album, Belew joined the expanded line-up needed to recreate the crazy clatter in a concert setting.

Adrian Belew remembers on how not to join a Famous Band. – in 1980 I received a call asking me to come to New York City to rehearse for four days in order to learn the Talking Heads record “Remain In Light” only months before I had recorded the record all in one day with the Heads and Brian Eno. Talking Heads had the idea to expand their normal quartet to a thumping funky 10-piece band with two bass players, two keyboard players, two guitar players, two female back-up singers, one drummer and one percussionist. and we were going to learn the very layered studio monster “Remain In Light” in four days and then play two shows! somehow we did it, we learned the record and several songs from other records. But just barely. and just in time to board a plane for our first show in Toronto. Only then did we see the whole enchilada, our first show was a festival of 70,000 people! they flew us to the vast backstage area in helicopters. looking down at the sea of tiny flesh baffles, I was nervous enough to jump out in mid-air. it seemed like all the hip bands of the moment were present. the B-52’s, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello, the Clash. it was called the heatwave festival, billed as the first “new wave” festival, and was actually in a place called Mosport park.
Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe played. the Pretenders played. the B 52’s played. minutes before we were set to play I opened the door to our backstage trailer to discover most of the band snorting lines of coke from the backs of guitars. they quickly shooed me away, knowing I didn’t partake.
The timing of our performance was fortuitous; just as the sun was setting. I joined the original four Heads to play “Psycho Killer”, then the full band was brought onstage. we launched right into the new material. no one in the audience even knew the “Remain In Light” record as yet but it didn’t matter, the band was smoking! halfway through our set we played a song from “Fear of Music” called “I Zimbra” on the recorded version David had played a fast running guitar line. as soon as we started that song I could tell the coke had kicked in. we played it twice as fast as it was on the record! my fingers had a hard time keeping up and I was worried our 45-minute set might be over in 20. but it all worked out. the band was an instant success.
For our second show we played in Central Park but only 125,000 people showed up! at the time you couldn’t go into a bookstore, bar, record shop, or restaurant without hearing Talking Heads music in the background. It was an exciting time to be in the band. David, Chris, Tina, and Jerry decided to keep the 10-piece funk machine rolling for a whole world tour including Japan and then Europe. it was a wacky cast of characters to live with and we had loads of fun.

The lead single, “Once In a Lifetime,” missed the Hot 100 chart memorable video that became an MTV staple the following year.

The track-by-track take of this, the most strangely brilliant album from a band that did strange and brilliant better than anyone.

“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)”: Within seconds, the Heads establish the wonky world they’ll explore for much of the next 40 minutes. It’s vibrant and alive yet weirdly claustrophobic: a paradise for paranoids. Amid skittering beats, belching bass and guitars that caw like tropical birds and scamper like ants on discarded mangos, Byrne plays a spiritually suffocating “government man” who just wants to breathe easy. Good luck with that one.

“Crosseyed and Painless”: More alienation set to alien grooves, this time with rougher rock guitars and a broader sense of unease. “Lost my shape,” Byrne sings at the outset, before deciding that shapes — and really facts of any kind — are inherently meaningless. As Byrne unravels, Frantz and Weymouth unspool insistently frazzled funk, making madness seem rather fun.

“The Great Curve”: Probably the most African-inspired track, both in terms of music and lyrics, this pulsing six-minute polyrhythmic free-for-all shifts the focus from freaked-out Byrne to some divine female figure (maybe a stand-in for all women) who’s “gonna open our eyes up.” It’s breathless and hopeful, complete with Belew guitar solos that shriek like people dying to come out of the dark.

“Once In a Lifetime”: Props to Eno and Harrison: The keyboards really do evoke floating as Byrne thinks about all that water bubbling down below our cars and houses and meaningless little lives. Some hear the song as a rant against ‘80s materialism, but Byrne has said it’s more about switching off autopilot and taking stock of how we get to where we end up. It’s man beating a drum and looking for answers he won’t find — same as it ever was.

“Houses In Motion”: If “Once In a Lifetime” is ambivalent about whether life is worth living, this chilly, plodding track paints a darker picture. The creepy-crawly rhythm that lit such a fire on “Born Under Punches” has slowed way down and Byrne is back to being a put-upon modern man forced to trudge sockless through a world where even that saviour lady from “The Great Curve” has “closed her eyes.” Those distorted horns laid down by frequent Eno collaborator Jon Hassell suggest not the grand trumpets of the apocalypse, but rather the sounds of elephants poised to stamp you dead without even realizing it.

“Seen and Not Seen”: Another slow jam, this sparse, wobbly, spoken-word gem finds Byrne ditching all the preacher-man affects and talking like a regular guy. Over a stomp-clap rhythm reminiscent of early hip-hop, Byrne calmly tells the story of a guy who wants to change his face — either to match his true personality or to better represent the personality he’s always wished he had. The guy’s not sure and Byrne’s not judging. We’ve all been there.

“Listening Wind”: Startlingly minimalist, this tale of a Third World terrorist prepping a mail bomb for one of the Americans who’ve muscled into his country marks a sharp turn from personal politics to global politics. The synths evoke both natural sounds and the digital blipping of Mojique’s device and Byrne again takes a non-judgmental, sympathetic tone. As a prescient commentary on the consequences of American foreign policy, “Listening Wind” suggests Talking Heads weren’t embarking naively on their quasi-African adventure.

“The Overload”: Talking Heads go goth with this bleak six-minute unhappy ending. The trudge of “Houses In Motion” is now a muddy, hopeless slog. Harrison’s keyboards sputter like machine guns or jeep motors and there’s a sense the band is performing in some burned-out future earth, using the last dregs of electricity to power its instruments.

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Talking Heads’ 1980 song “Once in a Lifetime” is one of the most durable songs of its era, watch the video and see how it has held up to numerous interpretations — via remixes, covers, mash-ups, samples and live takes.

Released in 1980’s “Remain in Light”, “Once in a Lifetime” shows the growing influence that producer Brian Eno, was having over the group. David Byrne used his downtime to work with Brian Eno (who’d produced the previous two Talking Heads records) Eno had introduced them to the work of Fela Kuti when he first met the band in 1977, and the Afrobeat legend’s polyrhythms first made their way into their sound on 1979’s Fear of Music.

In addition, David Byrne’s speak-singing on the verses was inspired by field recordings of American preachers that Byrne was listening to while working on “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” a collaborative album with Eno that he was working on at the same time as “Remain in Light”. Those recordings also factored into the lyrics.

“Most of the words in ‘Once in a Lifetime’ come from evangelists I recorded off the radio while taking notes and picking up phrases I thought were interesting directions,” he said (via Songfacts). “Maybe I’m fascinated with the middle class because it seems so different from my life, so distant from what I do. I can’t imagine living like that.” Meanwhile, Weymouth and Frantz took a long holiday in the Caribbean, where they pondered the group’s future and soaked up musical influences that would set them in good stead. Feeling Byrne had become too controlling, they looked to redress the balance; rather than rely on their frontman bringing material to the group, Weymouth and Franz suggested they emulate the music that was exciting them – early hip-hop, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat grooves, West African highlife pop – and embark upon jam sessions,

Frantz and Weymouth invited Harrison to their New York loft for informal jams, recorded on Frantz’s boombox. When it became apparent they had the beginnings of some promising tracks, they reached out to Byrne and Eno, both of whom had previously told Frantz they were not interested in making another Talking Heads record. Once the reluctant pair had been separately coaxed over and joined in, things began to get interesting. “By night time we took a break to listen back. You could hear all kinds of interesting parts germinating, mutating and evolving,” Frantz recalled. “There was no denying that Talking Heads still had a great chemistry going on and the beats were good.

One of those jams, a hypnotic and relentless instrumental called Right Start, might very well have been abandoned. Instead, it was worked up to become one of the best Talking Heads songs of all, the transcendent “Once In A Lifetime”.

Byrne expanded on its portrayal of a middle-class suburban man when he spoke with NPR in 2000. “We’re largely unconscious,” he said. “You know, we operate half awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?'”

Yet for all its fame, the song wasn’t even a hit. Although the original version reach No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, it failed to make Billboard’s Hot 100. But its video was frequently shown on MTV in the network’s early days. Five years later, however, the live take from their concert film Stop Making Sense.

 

The 1980 Original Version – Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” which received a single release on 2nd February 1981, was an obvious high point on the album that emerged from those sessions, 1981’s “Remain In Light”, the song’s video lodged it firmly in the public consciousness. Choregraphed by Toni Basil (of Hey Mickey fame, who also co-directed the promo clip with Byrne), the video featured a suited and bespectacled Byrne dancing like a possessed marionette, his moves inspired by archive footage of “preachers, evangelists, people in trances, African tribes, Japanese religious sects”.

Music Video Set to Scenes From David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”

Once it was picked up by MTV (which launched ten months after Remain In Light’s release), it became hailed as one of the best music videos of all time – a stark visual inseparable from the song.

1980 – Talking Heads Live Version

 

Talking Heads Live Wembley 1982 Once In A Lifetime

Byrne himself has suggested the song implores the listener to take stock of their lives. “We’re largely unconscious. You know, we operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else. We haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?’”

david byrne, american utopia

Earlier this year, David Byrne appeared on Saturday Night Live for the first time in decades to perform two songs from his American Utopia Broadway show with the news that, after touring the ground-breaking music production around the world, a Spike Lee directed concert film of the incredible show was in the works.

The upcoming film was originally intended to premiere at this years’ Toronto Film Festival, but due to the current state of the world, will now be released to streaming via HBO on Oct 17th. In the first one-minute teaser that arrived today, Byrne narrates a philosophical passage over a montage of cuts featuring his roving musical ensemble (11 in total) who perform as one deconstructed band to deliver a career-spanning collection of tracks from the Talking Heads singer’s entire catalogue.

“Despite all that’s happened and despite what’s still happening, there’s still possibility,” Byrne says. “James Baldwin said: ‘I still believe that we can do with this country something that has not been done before.’”

“I see it as the journey of a character who is me but not me, because it’s not necessarily biographical,” Byrne told Ultimate Classic Rock, when speaking about the upcoming concert film last year. “He starts off within himself wondering how to be in the world, what’s the right thing to do, how you relate to other people. It’s all kind of a mystery to the character. Then this person finds himself within this little community – in this case the band – and that allows him to come out of his interior a bit. Then by the end, this person and the band are engaged in the wider world, getting involved beyond their own bubble.”

David Byrne’s American Utopia brings the critically acclaimed Broadway show to HBO in a one-of-a-kind film directed by Oscar and Emmy-winner Spike Lee. Recorded during its run at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in New York City, David Byrne is joined by an ensemble of 11 musicians, singers, and dancers from around the globe, inviting audiences into a joyous dreamworld where human connection, self-evolution, and social justice are paramount. The HBO Special Event in partnership with Participant, River Road Entertainment and Warner Music Entertainment is produced by David Byrne’s Todomundo and Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks production companies and executive produced by RadicalMedia.

Who knew how wildly appropriate Byrne’s bubble metaphor would be one year later! The Spike Lee directed concert film of David Byrne’s American Utopia, will arrive on HBO Oct 17th.

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Chris Frantz is a lover, not a fighter. That’s apparent from the relationship that the drummer and co-founding member of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club shares with both of those groups’ fellow co-founder, bassist Tina Weymouth. Together as marrieds since 1977, now living in Fairfield, Connecticut with their two sons, Frantz and Weymouth have been a unit since they were art students at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early ’70s, before they both played music, before they befriended fellow RISD student/guitarist David Byrne, and before that trio moved to NYC’s Lower East Side in 1975 to join the area’s burgeoning art-punk scene.

Along with sharing those times in the twilight of punk and the ensemble’s vividly imagined growth along the lines of innovative twitchy Afro-funk and ambient pop, Frantz—in his first memoir writings, Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina—portrays the glories of that rise and the joys of friendships made. Frankly, too, Frantz writes how and why it all went wrong with Byrne, how Lou Reed and Brian Eno also sought to fleece Talking Heads in their own ways, and so much more—all while managing to be jovial and justifiably appreciative of all the good that went on with both of his bands and steering commendably clear of gossip. With that, Frantz has created something novel with Remain in Love—it’s seemingly the first-ever gracious and grateful biographical rock read.

Ril

Chris Frantz met David Byrne at the Rhode Island School of Art & Design in the early 1970s. Together – and soon with Frantz’s future wife, Tina Weymouth – they formed Talking Heads and took up residence in the grimy environs of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where their neighbours were Patti Smith, William Burroughs and a host of proto-punk artists who now have legendary status. Building an early audience and reputation with many performances at CBGB alongside the Ramones, Television and Blondie, Talking Heads found themselves feted by Warhol and Lou Reed, and signed to Sire Records. A band whose sensibility was both a part of, and apart from, punk, their early albums quickly became classics; until the Brian Eno produced masterpiece Remain in Light, saw them explode. Soon, however, relations within the band started to become strained as David Byrne started to take control of a band that had always operated democratically. Chris and Tina started recording as Tom Tom Club in the early ’80s; in the process creating a hybrid of funk, disco, pop, electro and world music that would have a huge impact on the club scene around the world.

Warm and candid, funny and heartfelt, Remain in Love charts the rise and fall of a band who combined the sensibility of artists with extraordinary songwriting vision. It is another classic New York memoir in the mould of Patti Smith’s Just Kids and a book which shares secrets and stories Talking Heads fans have been curious about for decades.

Remain In Light (Deluxe Version)

This is not only Talking Heads’ best record, it’s on the shortlist of the most innovative albums ever made. Under the influence of Brian Eno, the group began to weave African music into the dance grooves (years before Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ did the same thing in a less transformative manner). Also, Eno and the members implemented the cutting-edge tactic of crafting loops and samples to form the core of tracks. That was unheard of when it came to rock, so it makes the music on this album a second cousin of hip-hop (another influence on the album in terms of Byrne’s delivery). Few bands have ever been so fearlessly creative as to make an extended tribal groove that is as breakneck as it is epic, then perforate it with a snarling guitar solo from Adrian Belew (“The Great Curve”). “Once in a Lifetime” is so weird, it’s hard to believe it’s become a celebrated staple of our musical past. Such is the power of a dive-bombing bass line, intriguing synthesizer sounds and Byrne’s nervy, nerdy charisma. After running themselves ragged on the earlier parts of the album, Talking Heads slow down and stretch out on the last three tracks, proving that they can be just as interesting after the dance party ends. Droning closer “The Overload” adds layer after layer of texture as it stretches into the void as the occasional squawking loop pays homage to another, great meditative final track: “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Is there a way for such dark thoughts to remain in light? Talking Heads found a way.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on the Talking Heads album “Remain In Light”. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). The Deluxe Edition of REMAIN IN LIGHT adds four previously unreleased outtakes to the landmark alternative rock album; we’ll give the collection a spin now to wish Heads frontman David Byrne a happy birthday.

Album cover containing a drawing of a mountain range and four mostly red warplanes flying in formation. There is green text on the left hand side and a barcode in the top right corner.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). While outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Slant have called Remain in Light one of the best albums of the 1980s, it has a thrilling sense of discovery that remains of-the-moment.

Talking Heads

  • David Byrne – lead vocals, guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocal arrangements
  • Jerry Harrison – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tina Weymouth – bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Chris Frantz – drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals

David Byrne

The filmed version of the acclaimed Broadway show David Byrne’s American Utopia, directed by Academy Award–winning director Spike Lee, will be presented by HBO and will debut on HBO later this year. “David Byrne’s American Utopia is a uniquely transformative experience and a perfect example of how entertainment can bring us together during these challenging times,” said Nina Rosenstein, Executive Vice President, HBO Programming. “Spike’s brilliant direction adds a level of intimacy to this powerful performance, and we’re so thrilled to share this groundbreaking show with our audience.”
Spike and I have crossed paths many times over the years, obviously I’m a huge fan and now finally here was an opportunity for us to work together,” said David Byrne. “I am absolutely thrilled with the result. The Broadway show was a wonderful challenge as well as an opportunity—it was a joy to perform and, well, best to let the quotes speak for themselves.

Thrilled that this show and the subjects it addresses will now reach a wider audience.”
“It is my honour and privilege that my art brother, Mr. David Byrne, asked me to join him in concert, to invite me into his magnificent world of American Utopia,” Spike Lee said. “And dat’s da ‘once in a lifetime’ truth, Ruth. Ya-dig? Sho-nuff. Peace and love. Be safe.”

The Broadway production of American Utopia featured Byrne, together with eleven musical artists from around the world performing songs from Byrne’s 2018 album of the same name, along with songs from Talking Heads and his solo career for a major cultural milestone in the worlds of music and theater. The original American Utopia album, as well as the Broadway cast recording, were released on Nonesuch Records.

The set list each night included “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” several selections from Byrne’s American Utopia solo album, and a rendition of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout,” which featured Byrne and the musicians calling out the names of black Americans who have been unjustly killed with the refrains “say his name” or “say her name.”

In a recent interview, Byrne recalled approaching Monáe about permission to use the song. “She loved it,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. There was no hesitation. She’s very generous. So I continue to ask her, ‘We’re doing it on Broadway now. You sure you’re OK with all this?’ ‘Yeah.’ I thought I had to do that; I had to check with her and see what her take was on that, because otherwise, it could seem pretty strange. She’s about getting the message out.”

This one-of-a-kind, dynamic film gives audiences around the world access to Byrne’s electrifying Broadway show that played to sold-out, record-breaking audiences during its run from October 2019 to February 2020 at Broadway’s Hudson Theater. The New York Times called the production “dazzling, jubilant and rapturous,” while the Hollywood Reporter hailed it as “an astonishing knockout.” The Broadway production featured the work of choreographer Annie-B Parson, with Alex Timbers serving as production consultant (both had previously collaborated with Byrne on the acclaimed Imelda Marcos musical Here Lies Love); lighting design by Rob Sinclair and sound design by Pete Keppler; Karl Mansfield and Mauro Refosco are musical directors.

David Byrnes American Utopia

In addition to the partnership of David Byrne and Spike Lee, the feature-length film includes the work of choreographer Annie-B Parson; director of photography, Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); production consultant Alex Timbers; and editor Adam Gough (Roma). Collaborating with Kuras are eleven camera operators, many of whom are directors of photography in their own right, including Declan Quinn (Leaving Las Vegas) and Sam Levy (Lady Bird).

American Utopia, the album upon which the stage show is based, received a Grammy nomination and was the first by Byrne to reach No. 1 on the Top Current Album Chart. Released by Nonesuch Records in 2018, it was a global hit and the accompanying tour reached more than 27 countries with 150 concert dates.

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You’ve seen Stop Making Sense a million times (and if you haven’t, You must watch that) but maybe you haven’t seen this — Talking Heads playing Rome on the “Remain in Light” tour. It’s less of a flashy production and and a little more punk, with the augmented “10-piece funk machine” line up of the group that included Bernie Worrell and Adrian Belew, and the setlist that hits some deeper cuts (or at least just pre-“Burning Down the House”). No big suits, just a killer performance with especially awesome renditions of “I Zimbra” and “Crosseyed and Painless.”

This full show footage finds the band hitting their stride with the expanded and rather talented roster (in all its art-funk worldbeat glory) you can see at the bottom. Moreover, there’s a reason Nine Inch Nails fans should be thrilled to death about new touring member Adrian Belew and these videos below paint a pretty good picture of just how special and unique the out-of-the-stratosphere King Crimson guitarist is (see “Stay Hungry”, “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve” for reference). Throw P-Funk’s Bernie Worrell in the mix and this show stacks up musically with Stop Making Sense, albeit lacking in the Big Suit department. Consider this the visual b-side prequel to Demme’s legendary concert film.

Setlist:
01. Psycho Killer, 02. Stay Hungry, 03. Cities, 04. I Zimbra, 05. Drugs, 06. Take Me to the River, 07. Crosseyed and Painless 08. Life During Wartime, 09. Houses in Motion, 10. Born Under Punches
11. The Great Curve

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Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne was the musical guest on the February. 29th episode last week’s of Saturday Night Live, where he performed the Talking Heads classic “Once in a Lifetime” and his BPA collaboration “Toe Jam.” Fresh off his recently extended “American Utopia Broadway” residency and word that Spike Lee will direct the film version of the show,

The episode was hosted by comic and former SNL writer John Mulaney. Watch Byrne’s sets and his appearance in an elaborate Broadway-themed tribute to LaGuardia Airport (which featured a guest appearance from Jake Gyllenhaal) below.

The last time Byrne performed on SNL was in 1989 when he released his debut solo album, Rei Momo.

Byrne recently announced that his hit Broadway stage show American Utopia will return in September for a 17-week run through early 2021.

Musical guest David Byrne performs on Saturday Night Live.

Nonesuch Records releases the cast album for the critically acclaimed Broadway production of David Byrne’s American Utopia, with music and lyrics by David Byrne; it is available now.  The two-CD set will be released on November 22nd,  a vinyl edition will be available this winter.

“Dazzling, rapturous and jubilant,” exclaims the New York Times of the show. “Byrne puts the central tenet of making contact with a world outside your mind into dynamic, sensory practice onstage.”

“Astonishing,” raves Hollywood Reporter. “A knockout celebration of music, dance and song. Pure bliss.”

“A heady swirl of hope for our anxious times,” says Rolling Stone. “The concert-theater-dance spectacle finds solace in human connections … a tonic for our tumultuous times…”

American Utopia began as an album, also released by Nonesuch, which received a Grammy nomination and was the first by Byrne to reach #1 on the Album Chart; it was also his first to reach the Top Five on the Billboard 200 chart. The concert tour in support of American Utopia, which inspired the Broadway show, included songs from the new album along with music from Talking Heads and Byrne’s solo career. Byrne and the ensemble performed more than 150 dates in twenty-seven countries over nine months. The British publication NME said it “may just be the best live show of all time.”

Byrne performs a song from David Byrne’s American Utopia on Jimmy Kimmel Live! during a special broadcast from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) October 22nd. Additionally, Byrne and the Broadway ensemble will be musical guests on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on November 19th.

David Byrne’s American Utopia features David Byrne with Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan, and Bobby Wooten III; Davi Viera also performs on the album. The show’s design team includes Rob Sinclair (lighting) and Pete Keppler (sound). Karl Mansfield and Mauro Refosco are Musical Directors. Choreography and Musical Staging is by Annie-B Parson. Alex Timbers serves as Production Consultant.

David Byrne’s American Utopia is the once-in-a-lifetime Broadway event that delivers “an experience unlike anything else” and marks a major cultural milestone in the worlds of music and theater. David Byrne shares the spotlight with a diverse ensemble of eleven musical artists from around the globe to deliver “a marvel of staging and motion” that’s a “thought-provoking example of the power of live music” .

David Byrne’s recent works include the launch of Reasons to be Cheerful, an online magazine focused on solutions-oriented stories about problems being solved all over the world (2019);

Byrne curated Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival in London in 2015. A co-founder of the group Talking Heads (1976–88), he has released eight studio albums as a solo artist and worked on multiple other projects, including collaborations with Brian Eno, Twyla Tharp, Robert Wilson, and Jonathan Demme, among others. He also founded the highly respected record label Luaka Bop. Recognition of Byrne’s various works include Obies, Drama Desk, Lortel, and Evening Standard awards for Here Lies Love; an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe for the soundtrack to Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor; and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Talking Heads. Byrne’s work as a visual artist has been published and exhibited since his college days, including photography, filmmaking, and writing. He lives in New York City.

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The erstwhile Talking Heads frontman was behind one of the year’s most critically-acclaimed and beloved live tours, bringing a barefoot ensemble of untethered musicians onto stages across the world with a celebratory, career-spanning setlist. The tour took place on the back of what surprisingly ended up being one of the year’s more overlooked LPs in American Utopia, Byrne’s first proper solo endeavour in years. “House” was its lead single, and is filled with a classic sense of Byrnian paranoia and unease while simultaneously peppering in a sizzling horn section and head-voice, Sampha-assisted melodies. Long may the grand Byrne spectacle continue.

“The chicken thinks in mysterious ways,” David Byrne informs us on ‘Every Day Is A Miracle’, and you can’t argue with that. The Talking Heads hero turned in a record that, he claimed, was not named ironically – the 66-year-old genuinely still believes in the power of positivity, despite the onslaught of horror-show headlines. Here, he revels in wonder and astonishment at the beauty and bizarreness of the world around him, his wonky art-pop more skewed than ever. This left-field approach (some tracks sound like alternate universe show tunes) is best realised on ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’, an eccentric ode to the power of community.

Recorded on September 15th, 2018 at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY.

Setlist: 0:00 Here 4:18 Lazy 9:00 I Zimbra 12:11 Slippery People 16:59 I Should Watch TV 20:17 Dog’s Mind 24:28 Everybody’s Coming to My House 28:13 This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) 33:15 Once in a Lifetime 39:00 Doing the Right Thing 43:35 Toe Jam 48:55 Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) – with band intros 55:32 I Dance Like This 1:00:19 Bullet 1:03:52 Every Day Is a Miracle 1:08:48 Like Humans Do 1:12:35 Blind 1:17:54 Burning Down the House Encore 1: 1:25:28 Dancing Together 1:28:46 The Great Curve Encore 2: 1:36:30 Hell You Talmbout – with Merrill Garbus from tUnE-yArDs

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