Music review: David Byrne & St. Vincent, Roundhouse, London

 

Holly Williams
Wednesday 28 August 2013 10:41
Comments
David Byrne and St Vincent in concert at the Roundhouse, London, Britain
David Byrne and St Vincent in concert at the Roundhouse, London, Britain

St. Vincent - Annie Clark, a young American singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitar player - introduces the Love This Giant band, who stamped a clear sound on the album of the same name she recorded with David Byrne last year; the tour also, she notes, “features a whole hell of a lot of brass” (eight players within a ten-man band). As for Byrne? Well, he’s just introduced as “The archangel of absurdity”.

It’s a good name for the former Talking Heads frontman, who with white hair, white shirt, trousers and shoes, and an unruffled demeanour, flies through the two-hour set, robot dancing and hip-swivelling. The band boogie too; much is loosely choreographed, with trumpet-waving conga lines and synchronised sousaphone shimmies. Clark alternately stands taut, legs spread, shredding that electric guitar, or scuttles back and forth on high heels, giving her an eerie, automaton gliding movement. With their silly but straight-faced shape-pulling, Byrne and Clark match each other in cheerily performative eccentricity. They’re like the coolest ever unlikely intergenerational wedding disco pairing.

There’s also real respect for each other’s music: as well as playing their collaborative album - which comes to life excellently - there are brassed up versions of his and her’s solo material, as well as Talking Heads numbers. It’s clear which the audience prefers: they go crazy for "This Must Be the Place", which has a more laid-back groove (courtesy of much woodwind) than many of the new tracks, while "Road to Nowhere" provides a beaming big finish.

They sound good together too: Clark’s silky cool coos and trills have an almost electronic sheen, whereas Byrne’s vocals are ever-garrulous, dryly humorous. Occasionally, he goes fully bombastic, as on "I Am an Ape", while the band skank-walk, recreating the evolution of man with added parp.

Towards the end of the set, Clark pays tribute to Byrne’s singular talents, describing how a childhood encounter with his work made her realise music can take you to an “awesome, stratospheric” alternate place. Byrne has, she suggests, done what we all hope to do: “insert more joy into the universe than existed prior to us”. “Joy” sums up the evening, and the songs that follow brim with it. Her stand-out track "Cruel" is buoyed by brass and, even alongside growling guitar, the effect is giddily upbeat, while a rendition of Talking Heads’ "Burning Down the House" is tight, bright and duly sets the crowd alight. David Byrne + St. Vincent = joy squared.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in