This post is from Out the Other's 2009 Bonnaroo Artist Previews, where I'll be posting previews of all the musical acts playing the 2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Please check out and subscribe to the full site to learn more about all of this year's performers.
Let’s kick off this set of previews with one of the musicians who – next to only maybe Bruce Springsteen – I’ve been listening to for the majority of my life. It’s true – I think I’ve been listening to David Byrne (via Talking Heads of course) since I can pretty much remember listening to music.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see David Byrne twice in my life – the first time was while I was in college in Boston and bought my mother a ticket to see him at Paradise for Mother’s Day; the second was last September when my parents bought me a ticket to see him play the Ryman for my birthday. Both shows were fantastic and made a huge impression on me, for rather different reasons.
During that first show in Boston – probably 9 years ago now – I found myself speechless (and literally teary) when Byrne walked out on stage, because it was the first time I had ever been in the presence of a musical voice I had been listening to for basically all my life. It’s weird when something like that happens; when something you’ve loved for an extremely long period of time is right in front of you, in the flesh, and you realize that voice lives in the real world – not just in grooves and on cassette tape and in your ears and heart. Byrne ran through both solo material and Talking Heads classics that night, and it was my first experience seeing one of my all-time musical greats perform live. It remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
The second time I saw David Byrne play, at the Ryman last fall, the show didn’t have the magic of that first performance (I don’t think there’s any way it possibly could have), but it was incredible for a completely different reason – it was the first show I had been to in a long, long time. Byrne’s performance that night (I think the Bonnaroo appearance is technically part of the same tour, so I expect it to be fairly similar) was really a performance. There were a myriad of talented performers – from his band, to his backup singers, to a trio of white-clad dancers who livened up a huge portion of the set with visually engaging and moderately interpretive moves. The setlist drew mostly from Byrne’s work with Brian Eno, but there were certainly some Talking Heads favorites in the mix, though surprisingly they weren’t the only songs that got the audience on their feet, dancing in the aisles and singing along. I can only imagine what a performance like that will do with a crowd as big as the one that can be expected at Bonnaroo.
My basic preview for David Byrne boils down to this – when someone has been performing as long as he has, and has the massive amount of talent that is evident in everything he creates, they are bound to be worth experiencing live. So if you’ve never seen David Byrne, I highly recommend you take the opportunity at the festival this year.
Two songs that knocked me over live last September: