Review: David Byrne and St. Vincent Light Up The Segerstrom
What happens when the lead singer of the seminal New Wave band, Talking Heads, and one of today’s most innovative musicians (whose real name, Annie Clark, might be the only conventional thing about her) collaborate is one most would consider to be a highly-anticipated project and for good reasons.
The product of their collaboration, “Love This Giant,” a brassy, sassy, and genre-melding musical feat, is a refreshing change to the Ke$ha-sized atrocities that have plagued the airwaves for the last few years. Currently, the duo is on a cross-country tour to promote their new release, and when they made a stop at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Orange County, I jumped at the opportunity to see them live.
This is one of those shows that bridges generations together. Highly choreographed and theatrical, it leaned more towards a production for Broadway rather than for the typical rock concert. Like the conductors of a wildly fun, madhouse marching band (because, let’s be honest, is there a better kind?), Byrne and Clark led a brass octet through the musical journey they mapped together in-studio.
From their punchy opener, “Who” to the much slower paced, “Outside of Space and Time,” the pair performed almost all of the dozen tracks featured on “Love This Giant.” Apart from the show being a mindlessly, groovy fun time, Byrne and Clark remind us to be mindful of the ideologies they are preaching. From the socially conscious lyrics depicted about American media in “I Should Watch TV,” to the construction of an evolutionary scene in “I Am An Ape,” these songs are meant to be dissected and appreciated in more ways than one.
Although they work exorbitantly well as a team, Byrne and Clark also performed selected tracks from their individual disographies. Clark sang some fan favorites including the hauntingly striking, "Cheerleader," and "Cruel," while Byrne treated the audience to some of the greatest Talking Heads hits.
On stage, the pair read like two kindred souls, like your best friend’s parents that welcome you with their warm demeanors, goofy dance moves, and enigmatic personalities. Byrne, like the doting dad, shows you how to master the two-step, while Clark, the mom that does everything, is involved in every facet of the production.
It’s clear that Byrne is the mastermind behind this production—every aspect of the show oozes his kind of quirky charisma—but Clark is the one that carried the show. There was a point in the show when Byrne laid on his back on stage while Clark stood upright singing.
Clark is a virtuoso, a musical tour-de-force that is just as exciting to watch on stage and she is to listen to. Although frequently compared with the likes of other unconventional female singer-songwriters (Bjork, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey) Clark is really in a category all her own. While Clack might be light on her feet—she scurries around on stage on the tips of her toes—bring her guitar to shred and her presence is electrifying.
Prior to this show, I have never been to the Segerstrom. The thought of the forty-minute trek to Orange County felt daunting and a part of me had manifested irrational doubts over the unfamiliar territory. These shallow reservations quickly diminished, however, when I pulled up to the center—a stunning, architectural structure in a suburban oasis. The unconventional setting could have not been a more fitting venue for the off-the-cuff duo.
While there were several outliers, the auditorium filled with mostly middle-aged patrons that remained relatively tamed and tepid throughout the duration the concert. It was the second that the infectious melody for Talking Head’s “This Must Be the Place,” began, that got everyone up on their feet to jam along.
To cap off the night, the duo brought down the house with a rendition of “Burning Down the House,” which resulted in spontaneous belting from the crowd. This is perhaps one of the most civil shows that I ever been to, but it is also one of the best. I don’t know when the next time they will collaborate again (hopefully soon), but I do know that—especially after this night—my love affair with David Byrne and St. Vincent will only continue to grow.