Byrne and St. Vincent curate an evening of transcendent mirth

07/13/2013 2:40 PM

07/15/2013 1:07 PM

“We’re not little children and we know what we want,” David Byrne sang in “Road to Nowhere,” part of the encore at Friday night’s stellar show at Crossroads KC.

Byrne is no child (he turned 61 in March), but nearly 40 years after he launched his band Talking Heads, he remains as child-like and whimsical as anyone in the music world.

He was in town with Annie Clark, who performs under the name St. Vincent. In 2012, she and Byrne collaborated on “Love This Giant,” a collection of funky, horn-infused pop, funk and rock songs.

Friday, they showed up with an eight-piece horn section (and the occasional clarinet and flute) a drummer and keyboardist and for two hours at Crossroads KC showcased songs from “Giant,” several from each one’s solo career plus four Talking Heads songs.

The show was a delight from start to finish. Byrne and Clark followed a loose choreography most of the night, whether dancing, singing or playing acoustic and electric gutiars. And the eight-piece band was marvelous, musically and physically, adding mirth to its funk by dancing or parading around the stage or busting dance moves in unison, often split into groups of four, flanking the two singers. Several times, Byrne and/or Clark joined the choreography. As she sang the St. Vincent song “Cheerleader,” he lay on stage and did what looked like calisthenics. Their chemistry appears genuine and flawless, built on respect and friendship.

The “Giant” songs were mostly well-received, especially “The Forest Awakes”; so were some of the St. Vincent songs. But the first outburst came when the band cued up the intro to “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” a revered Talking Heads song. Byrne rearranged it for horns, and the results were delightful, transcendent. The crowd sang along fervently, and bobbed, swayed and danced along, too. It felt like an early grand finale.

There was no upstaging that number, but “Wild Wild Life,” another Heads song, came very close. During that one, as the brass ensemble twice marched in a circle, each member stepped up to the microphone and sang a lyric. And the crowd roared back the “oh-OH-ohs.” It was joyous, amusing and exhilarating.

They followed that with more songs from the “Giant”/St. Vincent/Byrne rotation. By then, it became clear a large part of the big crowd was less interested in those and waiting for the next Heads song. Especially in the back of the venue, the loud, excessive talking became a distraction. Had they been paying attention, they would have enjoyed the Giant songs “I Should Watch TV” and “Out of Space and Time,” which Byrne dedicated to the Higgs particle.

The intro to “Burning Down the House” nearly brought down the house. Again, arranged for horns, it sounded like a brassy, jazzy New Orleans rendition of another revered Heads song. Clark followed with St. Vincent’s , “Party,” then came a symphonic rendition of “Road to Nowhere,” which delivered more of the same: more marching, more goofy dancing, more singing-along, more giddy, child-like revelry.

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