David Byrne Shepherd's Bush Empire, London; LIVE REVIEW
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Friday 01 August 1997
One of the splendours of Feelings, after all, is its interest in everything pop has to offer, from jungle to soca. The problem for much of this evening is that, with the sort of "tight" funk-rock band so beloved of ageing legends, many songs degenerate into overstretched grooves. And, so diverse is the material being played that it's hard to feel a sense of momentum. There are almost constant echoes of the Eighties, reminders of how much a part of their times Talking Heads, seemingly so futuristic, really were. There are stranger sounds, too; intimations of hip hop, Hawaiian music and country. The problem is that none of it moves the audience as it should. He's not letting us down, but neither are we being raised up. Nothing seems to be at risk.
It's only when the show is three-quarters over that Byrne creates something that matters. He plays his new single, "Miss America", and it's obvious that it's one of the best of his career. He starts in a stately tango with his dancer, then he's singing the words, a bitter, funny valentine to his homeland, while underneath soca rhythms so joyous they could forgive Vietnam make him sway back and forth, transported. Byrne doesn't play anything else as good until the very end. Then he gives a glimpse of something more he may have in reserve. Latin beats and looped diva yells take him into a techno orbit, extending his synthesised past into something that could almost be the future. The audience, surprisingly, are enchanted. They still want to be modern, too.
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