David Byrne & St. Vincent burn down the house in Oakland


With the house lights still up at the beautiful Fox Theatre in Oakland July 21, a youthful-sounding David Byrne got on the mic backstage to greet the audience. He jovially and politely asked the audience to put their “gadgets” away; “we’ve worked really hard on this show and we’re really proud of it…you don’t need a gadget to enjoy it.” The packed house enthusiastically applauded in agreement.

The audience was regaled with booming sounds from the sousaphone, trumpets, trombones, French horn, and sax. Byrne’s voice, as strong and sharp as it was in his Talking Heads days harmonized handsomely with Annie Clark, the lead creative force behind St. Vincent. The group opened with “Who”, the opening track on David Byrne and St. Vincent’s 2012 album Love This Giant.

The show was so beautifully epic. The eight-piece marching horn section, Annie Clark’s crystal clear voice, and Byrne’s notorious quirkiness were in sync all evening — the show was more of a theatrical production than a concert. The choreography, the musicianship, the talent, the lighting; the entire production was so seamless and so much fun to watch. During the Talking Heads cover “Wild, Wild Life”, the talented horn section marched in a circle while each member gave a quick line into the mic. “I wrestle with your conscious, you wrestle with your partner.”

Byrne, clad in all white, bopped along while the band led many of the numbers. While the upbeat songs were great to dance to, it was the more mellow songs such as “Outside Space and Time” that brought the warmth and power out of the horns. One had to wonder where the sound of strings was coming from? The French horn perhaps? Each song portrayed it’s own story: the tone, choreography, and sound adapted delightfully for each number. It kept you wondering, where are we going next?

The crowd rallied and cheered during the Talking Heads songs of the evening. Byrne projected joy during a lovely rendition of “Naïve Melody (This Must Be the Place)”. The real crowd-pleaser turned out to be during the encore, when Byrne’s “Burning Down the House” literally brought the entire packed Fox to their feet to bust out some moves. They exited the stage after their second encore, a New Orleans second line-style “Road to Nowhere.”

Another striking moment happened when Clark thanked her “bitchin’ crew” for their dedication during their full year tour, as this show marked the conclusion of the US tour. Not only did she thank the road crew and band members, but gave a lovely homage to Byrne himself. She first discovered Byrne’s music after viewing Revenge of the Nerds in her youth (“Burning Down the House” was featured in a scene). She went on to explain the impact of his music and how honored she was to be on stage performing with him. To paraphrase, “Thank you David for bringing your music into the world, you have made it a better place.”

A brief personal anecdote:
I was first introduced to David Byrne and The Talking Heads in high school when I was told to listen to the Stop Making Sense album: that was a life-changer. As an avid Talking Heads fan, this was really a dream come true for me. It only got better when he played “Naïve Melody”, the song I hold so dear to my heart and walked down the aisle to at my wedding. I try to make Byrne’s lyrics my motto, “Feet on the ground, Head in the Sky.”

My husband and I had seats literally in the last row of the balcony, BB. They turned out to be the best seats in the house! Not only are the acoustics amazing from anywhere in the gorgeous Fox Theatre, but some of the numbers are almost meant to be watched as if watching a play; thus seats were nice to have. Being in the back row also allowed us to pop up and dance when the mood struck us, which was often. The show was truly a beautiful work of art — It was an honor to see David Byrne, weird and as awesome as ever.


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