David Byrne & St. Vincent create a giant sound in SF

Photos by Pete Mauch // Written by Kevin Raos //

David Byrne & St. Vincent //
SHN Orpheum Theatre – San Francisco
October 15th, 2012 //

It all started with a gentle rain.

That was the sound we were greeted with upon entering the Orpheum Theater on a Monday night for a special evening with David Byrne & St. Vincent. Byrne, known for his work in the Talking Heads, and Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, created a fluid blend of two distinct, but very complimentary, musical styles and sounds.

Sitting in our seats, the rain began to intensify, building up to lightning and thunder until the storm finally subsided. After the storm had passed a sense of calm came over the theater. The lights dimmed, and out came the band. Immediately they kicked into “Who,” the single from their recently released collaborative album Love this Giant. Hearing this live gave me a greater appreciation for this song, and the entire album for that matter.

Live, the songs off Love This Giant had more depth, more intensity and felt more inspired. Maybe it was our particular evening, but the entire show had the audience on the edge of their seat, if not dancing in the aisle. A highlight was “I Am an Ape,” which, to me, was easily the best performance of a song off Love This Giant the entire evening.

A pattern began to develop early in the show: a song or two from Love This Giant, followed by a selection from Byrne and Clark’s previous musical ventures. After “Who” and “Weekend in the Dust” they played “Save Me From What I Want,” a track off St. Vincent’s 2009 album Actor. This bold selection made it obvious this was not going to be “The David Byrne Show,” but rather a celebration of both the musicians on stage. In fact, during several songs David Byrne was merely another member of the band, blending himself with the complex choreography prominent the entire evening.

The crowd knew they were in store for some classic Byrne/Talking Heads tracks, and were treated to several including “Strange Overtones,” “Like Humans Do,” “This Must Be the Place,” “Road to Nowhere” and “Burning Down the House.”

St. Vincent’s music clearly isn’t as well-known as David Byrne’s, however her applause was no less appreciative as the attentive audience ate up tracks such as “Save Me From What I Want,” “Marrow,” “Cheerleader,” “Cruel” and “The Party.”

David Byrne didn’t disappoint on stage banter this evening either. Before starting “I Should Watch TV” Byrne described all the music in his house as either being Fiction or Nonfiction, and that the next selection would be from the Nonfiction section.

Annie Clark spoke about the first time she was exposed to Byrne’s music, when she was a child watching the film Revenge of the Nerds, with the song “Burning Down the House.”

Byrne also had a sense of humbleness throughout the evening, giving the band and Annie much due credit. Mostly brass, the 10-piece backing band included many talented musicians, which Byrne never missed an opportunity to thank. Byrne introduced the band and spoke for a moment about each member’s side project or the full-time band they play in.

Byrne and Clark’s chemistry on stage was also very apparent. The entire evening the two weaved in and out of the planned choreography mixing in their own style of dance, Byrne sometimes looking very puppet-like in his movements, something Talking Heads fans are very familiar with.

It was clear from the outset that they wanted to create a special environment. A sanctuary of music and dance. Everything from the lighting, the stage setup, the choreography and the song selection was very deliberate, choreographed and rehearsed. This band practiced endlessly, and it showed.

Their mutual appreciation and admiration for each other shined through by the constant respect they had for one another’s music. Together Byrne and Clark, and their band, explored all styles of music, from the classics to the recently released. They even squeezed in a theremin duel.

If you have the opportunity to see this once in a life time spectacle, please do yourself a favor and indulge.

Weekend in the Dust
Save Me From What I Want (St. Vincent cover)
Strange Overtones (David Byrne cover)
I Am an Ape
Marrow (St. Vincent cover)
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads cover)
The Forest Awakes
Like Humans Do (David Byrne cover)
Cheerleader (St. Vincent cover)
Lazy (David Byrne cover)
I Should Watch TV
Northern Lights (St. Vincent cover)
The One Who Broke Your Heart
Outside of Space and Time

Cruel (St. Vincent cover)
Burning Down The House (Talking Heads cover)

Encore 2:
The Party (St. Vincent cover)
Road to Nowhere (Talking Heads cover)


  1. Molly Kish says:

    So bummed I missed this show, great review Raos. Welcome to Showbams!

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