At the age of 66, David Byrne is completely nailing one of the year’s most ambitious tours

David ByrneBy Tim O’Shea //

David Byrne with Ibeyi //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
August 22nd, 2018 //

“Music resonates in so many parts of the brain that we can’t conceive of it being an isolated thing. It’s whom you were with, how old you were, and what was happening that day.” – an excerpt from David Byrne’s 2012 book “How Music Works”

My first memories of Talking Heads bring me back to my family’s living room, where I would sit in front of our Hi-Fi turntable at the age of five. My mother had just replaced the needle in anticipation of playing a new LP, Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues. It is a memory that I’ll always have.

For the last 35 years, every time I hear “Burning Down the House” or “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”, I am instantly transported back to that moment. It’s a nostalgic trip for me, the listener, one that we all share with our own favorite music.

And you may find yourself subsequently taking in one of the most ambitious concerts of the year, with this current Byrne iteration seeing him promote his seventh solo album American Utopia, which he released back in March, all over the country across more than 100 dates — from a couple of appearances at Coachella (read our festival review here) to two sell-outs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre — on his 2018 tour schedule at the ripe age of 66.

Opening for Byrne were Ibeyi, a downtempo experimental duo, named after the Yoruba word for “twins”. They mixed soul, R&B and some trip-hop into their performance, relying heavily on two drum machines and their incredible vocals.

Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz are French, but they highlight their ancestry by combining Afro-Cuban elements with vocals that are sung in a number of languages, including English, French, Spanish and Yoruba. The Yoruba language comes from Nigeria and was often spoken by the two sisters’ ancestors, who in the 1700s were taken to Cuba from West Africa and then sold as slaves.

Ibeyi’s show was slightly underappreciated by the throngs of latecomers who visited the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last Wednesday, but they delivered a performance that was worthy of their supporting slot. Several neighbors in the audience agreed that their vocals reminded them of Björk, which was not a slight at all. I noticed the same thing, in fact, when it came to their dark, passion-filled timbre.

Ibeyi


Ibeyi

The sisters’ lyrics are sparked and inspired by social issues, whether they include references to President Donald Trump’s lewd “grab them by …” remark from the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or address an ongoing problem with police brutality, but they’ve still found ways to touch upon such topics as faith, responsibility, family, love and perseverance. There was no truer example of this than during “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms” at the start of the night as a clip from Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech that highlighted Trump’s treatment of women played over the song.

Following a short break between sets, the stage was primed for Mr. Byrne. With a 12-piece ensemble nearly in perpetual motion for 90 minutes (that included a pair of encores), the crowd was brought into the middle of this performance-art circle.

Byrne’s show was mildly reminiscent of “Stop Making Sense”, the 1984 production directed by Jonathan Demme, in its use of disjointed, awkward movements and percussive elements that connect everything onstage, but it was updated in a way that made it not only relevant today, but also completely engrossing.

There has definitely been a jovial feeling on this tour, with all of Byrne’s band members either barefoot or subtly wearing slippers while also donning slightly-too-large grey suits. The entire production resembles a well-oiled, perfected marching band’s field show, with both the drum line and accompanying pieces intertwining to precisely hit their marks.

Visually, Byrne’s show should be commended for its use of light and minimalism. There were no tricky pyrotechnic elements or an overuse of strobe lights/spotlight. Instead, Byrne slowly revealed himself as he sat at a tiny desk while holding the human brain; heavy shadows were cast on his face with the light behind and above him.

As the show progressed into his songs “Here” and “Lazy”, Byrne’s band joined him onstage. The light changed and filled in the stage, giving the audience a happier tone and providing a seamless transition into a Talking Heads interlude. Then, later on during “Blind”, one of the more stunning visual elements was made possible by a simple lamp that was placed in front of the band, casting whirling shadows on the strands of beads hanging behind them.

The performance concluded with a powerful cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” as Ibeyi joined in the fun. Featuring simple afrobeats and chanting vocals that showcased fervor and palpable energy, the song brought the entire audience into the fold as handfuls of victims of police brutality were made known: “Walter Scott, say his name, Walter Scott, say his name, Walter Scott, say his name, won’t you say his name?” It was visceral and raw and captured the brilliance of a poet like Byrne, who knows how to mix his mediums to absolute perfection.

DAVID BYRNE

Setlist:
Here
Lazy
I Zimbra (Talking Heads song)
Slippery People (Talking Heads song)
I Should Watch TV (David Byrne & St. Vincent cover)
Dog’s Mind
Everybody’s Coming to My House
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads song)
Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads song)
Doing the Right Thing
Toe Jam (Brighton Port Authority cover)
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Talking Heads song)
I Dance Like This
Bullet
Every Day Is a Miracle
Like Humans Do
Blind (Talking Heads song)
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads song)

Encore:
Dancing Together
The Great Curve (Talking Heads song)

Encore 2:
Hell You Talmbout (Janelle Monáe cover) (with Ibeyi)

IBEYI

No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms
Deathless
River
I Wanna Be Like You
Oya

Culture Collide Festival invades SF, LA with talent far and wide

Culture CollideBy Marc Fong and Josh Herwitt //

Culture Collide Festival //
Various venues in San Francisco and Los Angeles
October 14th-15th in SF; October 16th-18th in LA //

Culture Collide Festival stopped off in SF for the first time ever before making its way down to LA last weekend, bringing bands from around the globe to celebrate music, food and well, culture, of course. With U.S. headliners Cloud Nothings and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah leading the way, the festival also boasted plenty of international talent, from Israel’s SKYROADS to Colombia’s Quantic. Marc Fong hit up the festival in SF and Josh Herwitt was in LA to give their own takes on a dozen different acts.

Rock N Roll Radio


Rock N Roll Radio

Rock N Roll Radio (Korea): Though the vocals were a bit muffled and its English was rough, this Korean band communicated fun in the most basic of ways — through catchy, poppy riffs.

Go Back to the Zoo (Netherlands): The lyrics were a little repetitive, but their melodies were strong and soulful. Think early Kings of Leon.

Kamp! (Poland): Kamp!’s synth-heavy songs were fun, yet mellow, making for a slow ride into the night at the Elbo Room.

SKYROADS (Israel): Of Monsters and Men meet Freelance Whales. A little rough around the edges, this band has a strong radio sound, plus an amazing performance. Don’t be surprised to see and hear more from SKYROADS in the near future.

Everyone Is Dirty (USA): Gritty tunes from a gritty band by way of Oakland. They sound like garage rockers but with a lot of flare, great vocals and most notably, some kick-ass violin playing.

Cloud Nothings


Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings (USA): Cleveland pop-punk outfit Cloud Nothings brought a grisly sound to The Chapel with catchy hooks and fun, crunchy riffs. If you haven’t checked out their latest album Here and Nowhere Else (read our review here) yet, you should.

Nervous Nellie (Sweden): This four-piece out of Stockholm brought some fun indie-rock tunes from its Scandinavian homeland.

Beat Connection (USA): Reminiscent of early M83, these four guys from Seattle offered a fun way to fade into the night and close out the SF edition of the fest.

De Lux (USA): Fans of this burgeoning LA act got their weekend started early in Echo Park, moving and grooving to a funky set chock full of post-disco, dance-punk cuts that have drawn comparisons (and rightfully so) to Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip. After releasing their debut LP Voyage in April to much fanfare, Glendale natives Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco appear to have a promising career ahead of them.

(Denmark): Dropping their debut album No Mythologies to Follow in March, Karen Marie Ørsted and her sidekicks electrified the Echoplex with one electropop hook after another during their nearly hour-long show. It should be only a matter of time before the 26-year-old singer-songwriter is selling out venues all across the country. Her growing popularity, in fact, could very well skyrocket following her performance with Iggy Azalea on Saturday Night Live this month.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (USA): After revolutionizing independent music in the mid-2000s thanks to the interwebs, the Philly-based group has endured quite a few changes. Frontman Alec Ounsworth remains the only original member still in the band, and for all intents and purposes, it is clearly his band at this point. But the recent release of their fourth full-length album — and a relatively lackluster one — Only Run has CYHSY living off many of their earlier hits that once earned the attention of legends like David Bowie and David Byrne back in 2005.

Quantic (Colombia): Multi-instrumentalist, DJ and record producer Will Holland may be one of music’s biggest hidden talents. As one of Holland’s most prolific projects, Quantic pulls from a variety of styles, including cumbia, salsa, bossa nova, soul, funk and jazz, while the UK native works his way from one instrument to the next (his current arsenal includes guitar, bass, double bass, saxophone, accordion, piano, organ and various percussion instruments). Inside the diminutive and sweaty Echo Park United Methodist Church, Holland and his ensemble got some eager fans out of their seats just seconds after taking the stage. Though Holland said it would be Quantic’s last show for some time, they won over at least a few new fans that night, too.

David Byrne & My Tattoo Manifest Destiny

Atomic-Bomb_David-Byrne3

Show photos by Marc Fong //

Editor Note: Dara Shulman shares her story from the William Onyeabor tribute show at The Warfield in San Francisco May 6th. View the setlist here.

Manifestation: Making something, anything, everything happen because you want it. You think about it. You put your energy, your being into making this happen. 

I am a David Byrne fanatic. When I first listened to the Stop Making Sense album freshman year of high school, my life was changed forever. Byrne’s music reached a part of my soul that I didn’t even know existed.  Fourteen years later, my passion for his music has only amplified.

I saw David Byrne perform last year with the incredible St. Vincent and my mind was blown. Last night at The Warfield in San Francisco, I made my way to the very front row mid-show, stood directly in front of Byrne, and lost myself.  Atomic Bomb, a hodge-podge of musicians including Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip, Kele Okereke from Bloc Party, Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem, Sinkane and many more played tribute to William Onyeabor as part of a fourteen-piece conglomeration.  I started off dancing with my friends, but then I needed, felt compelled by everything in my being to get closer to Byrne. I had already made a pact with myself, my manifestation, to get David Byrne to sign my left ankle two days ago. 

Atomic-Bomb_David-Byrne       
I held up my ticket with “I love you David” ballpoint pen-written upon it, hoping to get his attention to get an autograph. He is so damned professional that he did not flinch. I know we made eye contact (my bright orange shirt matched his bright orange hat), but he was so focused on his performance — I absolutely respect that. 

When the show was over, I could barely move. I just spent an hour standing inches away from a musician that quite literally changed my life. It was hard to breathe.  A roadie was kind enough to give me a set list taped on the speaker: fuck yeah.

Minutes later, I went to the stage door.  I chatted with the roadies and stage crew, “Any chance I can meet Mr. Byrne?”  While they saw my enthusiasm, there is only so much they can do. So, I waited. A member of the band came out. I introduced myself and congratulated him on a fantastic performance. “Is there any way I can meet David Byrne? I am a die-hard fan.”

He was kind enough to give me a wristband to go to the after party down in the basement of The Warfield.  “Put this on, relax, grab a drink and enjoy yourself.” “Okay.” Meanwhile, I’m freaking out in my head and trying to catch my breath and comprehend what was about to happen.

Atomic-Bomb_David-Byrne2 
I walk downstairs, play it cool and meet a few of the musicians. I’m looking around and accidentally stumble into a white-clad shirt David Byrne.  Oh damn.  “Excuse Mr. Byrne….I am a huge fan; your music changed my life, may I have your autograph?” He very sweetly agreed to sign my set list.

“Is it okay if I take a picture with you?” “Sure.” “Can I put my arm around you?” “Yes.”  “Mr. Bryne, I walked down the aisle at my wedding to “Naïve Melody”, this is absolutely amazing to meet you.” He chuckled but was so polite. I stuck around a little because I needed to get him to sign my ankle: this was my manifestation.  I hung back, I didn’t want to be obnoxious and pushy.  He saw me again and asked me to take a picture of him with some other fans.

Dara-+-David
 
“Of course! Can I ask you one more favor? Can you please sign my ankle?” I lifted up my leg with my jeans rolled up. “Do you want to sit down?” “Nope, I can balance, go for it!” I put my hand on his shoulder and with my ballpoint pen he signed my ankle. He said, “A ballpoint pen is weird.” “That’s all I have Mr. Byrne. Thank you…” I exited quickly.

Holy fucking shit.
Dreams really do come true.  Tomorrow, I will be getting his signature tattooed to my body. 

UPDATE: Manifested

Tatoo

Atomic Bomb

10 best tracks about “Home”

HomeSubscribe to our “Home” Spotify Playlist

This is the time of year when a lot of people spend time at home. People go home for the holidays, as most of us did for Thanksgiving and will do this month. People get stuck in their house when it’s raining & snowing. And we recognize how important home is when catastrophic events like hurricanes and earthquakes destroy so many dwellings.

Home can also have an abstract meaning, especially when it comes to music. Home can be a state of mind, and the idea of home shifts for many over the course of their lives.

Enough deep analytics – here are 10 of our favorite songs about home.
What did we miss?

10. Band of Horses – “On My Way Back Home”

On my way back home, by chance I thought of
All my favorite songs, where I’d gone wrong
The only words that I could think of
I’m pissing my life away in the form of a song
On my way back home

9. Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”

I happened on a house
Built of living light
Where everything evil dissapears and dies…
I settled in slowly, to this house that you call home
To blood and breath, fear, flesh and bone…
Its a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give
but your not mine to die for anymore
so i must live

8. Al Green – “Call Me (Come Back Home)”

If you find you’s a long way from home
And if somebody’s doin’ you wrong
Just call me baby
Come back home

7. The Head And The Heart – “Lost in My Mind”

Momma once told me
You’re already home where you feel loved
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind

6. Grateful Dead – “Brokedown Palace”

Goin home, goin home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,
Listen to the river sing sweet songs, to rock my soul.

5. John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, Mountain Mama
Take me home, country roads

4. Michael Kiwanuka – “Home Again”

Home again, Home again
One day I know I’ll feel home again
Wrong again, Wrong again
One day I know I’ll feel strong again
And lift my head

3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “Home”

Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

2. LCD Soundsystem – “Home”

Home, home, home
Home, home, home
Take me home…
If you’re afraid of what you need
Look around you, you’re surrounded
It won’t get any better…

1. Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”

Home is where i want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(so i) guess i must be having fun…
Home – is where i want to be
But i guess i’m already there
I come home – -she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place

Subscribe to the “Home” Spotify Playlist

25 of the best cover songs ever

It’s pretty hard to proclaim the best cover songs of all time — there have been so many great covers performed in the studio and in a live environment. So that’s why we’re framing this as “25 of the Best Cover Songs Ever”. This list is not as hyperbolic as we prefer to be, but our top 10 is pretty damn solid.

Some prescribe to the theory that a cover song has to be better than the original to be great, or considered one of the the best. I don’t believe this to be true. There are cases in this list where the cover song does not surpass the original in greatness (see #25 for example). But if a cover song attempts to be different and successfully recreates a track to make it original and timeless in its own way, credit should be granted.

What did we miss? Leave us a comment with a YouTube link.

25. Chromatics – “Into the Black”
Originally by Neil Young

24. Guns N’ Roses – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Originally by Bob Dylan

23. Bob Dylan – “Train of Love”
Originally by Johnny Cash

22. Johnny Cash – “I’m on Fire”
Originally by Bruce Springsteen

21. Bruce Springsteen – “Trapped”
Originally by Jimmy Cliff

20. Birdy – “Skinny Love”
Originally by Bon Iver

19. Sublime (featuring Alex Grenwald) – “Scarlet Begonias”
Originally by the Grateful Dead

18. Grateful Dead – “Morning Dew”
Originally by Bonnie Dobson

17. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Trampled Rose”
Originally by Tom Waits

16. Santana – “Black Magic Woman”
Originally by Fleetwood Mac

15. Sharon Jones – “It’s a Man’s World”
Originally by James Brown

14. Radiohead – “The Headmaster Ritual”
Originally by The Smiths

13. Eric Clapton – “Coccaine”
Originally by JJ Cale

12. Tina & Ike Turner – “Proud Mary”
Originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival

11. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Originally by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

10. The White Stripes – “Jolene”
Originally by Dolly Parton

9. Joe Cocker – “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Originally by The Beatles

8. The Beatles – “Twist & Shout”
Originally by The Top Notes, made famous by The Isley Brothers

7. Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
Traditional song; arranged by Lead Belly

6. Janis Joplin – “Me and Bobby McGee”
Originally by Kris Kristofferson

5. Phish – “Remain in Light” LP in it’s entirety
Originally by Talking Heads

4. Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”
Originally by Al Green

3. Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
Originally by Otis Redding.

2. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
Originally by Bob Dylan.

1. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Originally by Nine Inch Nails.