Live Review: David Byrne, SLAM jam; The Notwist tonight (shhhhh, it’s a secret)…

Category: Blog — @ 6:08 pm October 19, 2008

What did we really expect from the David Byrne concert? Well, a chance to hear Talking Heads songs sung by the chief Talking Head. And not just any Talking Heads’ songs, the ones that were co-created with Brian Eno — the darker, odder tunes, the ones that sounded like they were written by aliens, that upon first listen (to Fear of Music or Remain in Light) felt awkward or purposely dissonant and uncomfortable. It was only after listening to those albums a few times that they became ingrained in my psyche, that they made sense.

We got plenty of those songs last Friday night — it was, after all, a sort of tribute to that music, some might say the most substantial music that Byrne has ever created. Not me, of course. I like non-Eno Heads/Byrne music as well, though not as much of it. I never had a chance to see Talking Heads when they were still kicking around; this would be the closest that I’ll probably ever get, and in that light, will have to suffice. And suffice it did.

Byrne and his band strolled out dressed in white — Byrne himself wearing white slacks and a white short-sleeved polo shirt, launching into the best song off his new solo-with-eno album, “Strange Overtones,” a track that harkens back to the best funk-beat rock from his old days. It wasn’t until the next song, “I Zimbra,” that the crowd stood up and began a style of ritualistic groove that’s only danced by middle-aged white people who are a little too uptight to really enjoy themselves — it was like watching an older couple that’s not used to (or approving of) public displays of affection awkwardly make out. In all honesty, it’s not natural (or possible) to create a dance-party vibe in the sterile confines of The Holland Center, a place as inviting as a high school assembly hall — where any spontaneous act would be met by a stern teacher bearing a ruler and plenty of cold chastisement.

The set list also didn’t help loosen the oldsters up. Byrne interlaced hot TH dance songs like “Houses in Motion” and “Crosseyed and Painless” with the more mundane songs off the new album, songs that seemed mopey and formulaic and that immediately eased people back into their seats, where they waited, poised to leap for the next afro-beat-infused hit from yesteryear.

Regardless of the restraints, the show was still immensely entertaining in a theatrical sort of way, thanks to the three modern, interpretive dancers that spiced up half the songs. My favorite parts of TH concert films is watching Byrne’s own pseudo-improvised dance routines — who can forget such classic Byrne dance moves as “hand-chopping-arm” or “slap-myself-in-the-forehead”? The three dancers — two woman and a guy, also dressed in white — built on Byrne’s quirky choreography, with Byrne joining in when he wasn’t shredding a guitar. It was mesmerizing and made the concert feel like something you’d see on a Broadway stage.

Byrne is not exactly a master of stage patter. He mentioned that he rode his bike over the new pedestrian bridge and found himself impressed to be in Iowa. He mentioned that there was a change coming to the political landscape, which was met with big applause. But that was about it. He clearly was lost in having a good time on stage, and with the audience, who by the end of the set, was standing in a mob crowd that took up the first few rows of the auditorium. Whether it was the nearly sold-out crowd or the fact that the band was performing after having a day off, they sprang a few surprises, including a stab at playing “Air” off Fear of Music — a song that Byrne said this band had never tried in front of an audience before. And during the 7-song encore (according to Wiki, he only did a 3-song encore on the tour’s opening night) Byrne played non-Eno Talking Heads hit “Burning Down the House,” and then capped off the nearly 2-hour show with the title track from his new album. A very entertaining night.

* * *

About 150 appreciative music fans, drunks and computer geeks showed up at The Waiting Room Saturday night for the SLAM Omaha benefit show. It was sort of like being at a class reunion of Omaha’s proud non-Saddle Creek, non-indie music crowd. The highlight was a reunion of The Movies — an Omaha four-piece rock ‘n’ roll band fronted by Whipkey Three frontman Matt Whipkey and featuring Mike Friedman on guitar, Bob Carrig on bass and Doug Kabourek on drums. It felt like 2001 all over again, with the band playing spot-on renditions of all their old favorites as if they never broke up. I am only to believe that this was a “one time only” deal. Based on the crowd reaction, The Movies have been sorely missed. Friedman said afterward that another reunion wasn’t out of the question, but it probably wouldn’t happen for another six years. Buy your tickets now.

The show was the first chance for me to experience the shock-and-awe power of Bloodcow, arguably Council Bluffs’ best band. Only one word can describe the sheer power of their metal madness: Majestic. They bring everything you want and expect from a punk-metal band — the glistening harmonizing mercury-fast guitar riffs, the Hand of Doom rhythm section, the crazy metal frontman who, well, didn’t look metal at all with short hair and slender build (I thought all metal guys were mop-headed (or mullet-headed) fat boys). Legends have been told about previous Bloodcow shows — about the mayhem and violence — which leads me to believe the Bloodcow boys were purposely restrained on the Waiting Room stage last night. What hell could they have wrought at, say, O’Leaver’s or Sokol Underground? That remains to be seen.

* * *

Yesterday, the illustrious Val at Slowdown announced a not-so-secret “secret show” being held at her club tonight at 10 p.m. — The Notwist, a German indie-electronic band, whose 1998 album Shrink, was one of my favorites from that year (here’s my review of the disc). I’ve lost track of Notwist since then. Maybe it’s time to catch up — especially at this price: FREE. Get down to the club early and catch some Jim Esch, who is hosting a benefit rally that starts at 6 p.m. Your $10 “donation” goes straight to his campaign.

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