30 August 2013 (late evening)
Sitting here reflecting on a great evening in Birmingham, UK a couple of nights ago. I can’t believe it’s already two days since David Byrne & St. Vincent graced the stage of the wonderful Birmingham Symphony Hall. Time can be cruel and slip so quickly into a murky past. But the memories of the night are still fresh and shine brightly, illuminating my memory and thoughts.
So let’s rewind two days…
28 August (mid-afternoon)I’ve been up since 4.30am (ah the twilight life of a postman for Royal Mail), dashed through my delivery and been met by my lovely wife Sue almost as I pushed my last letter through the door. Sue’s driven across from Lincoln and with me still dressed in my dapper postie uniform we hot-foot it from Nottinghamshire SW to Birmingham. By 3pm we’ve ditched the car in the Premier Inn car park (Broad Street Canal side) and are chillin’/showering/putting on our smart togs/eating and supping drinks before making the short hop to The Birmingham Symphony Hall (literally only 5 mins walk up Bridge Street). Great location to stay if you’re coming to a show. It’s Early Evening, we’re a bit early as the show starts at 8pm, but the doors are open, we can cast our eyes over the merchandise stand, before heading to the bar for a drink or two. The Pure Ubu beer (a play on the avant-garde band Pere Ubu possibly?) is top notch. Sue meanwhile is enjoying wine as her tipple and seems to approve. Well it’s Wednesday evening, the diary’s are freed up as we’ve both got the day off tomorrow – so why wouldn’t we? We’re here to see David Byrne & St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) with an 8-piece brass band perform songs from their album ‘Love This Giant’, plus hopefully some of their own material. Byrne is the former lead singer with Talking Heads, so I’d be lying if I wasn’t hoping for a tune or two from that cannon. Last night they played to rave reviews in London. Strangely my brother, who lives near The Roundhouse, was at that show. I avoided speaking to him though, as I wanted to experience the show fresh. All the press were raving though. I have been a fan of Mr Byrne since seeing Talking Heads at Hemel Hempstead Pavillion in 1979 on the ‘Fear Of Music’ tour. Over the years I’ve seen many of his shows, in his different guises, enjoying each and evey one. St. Vincent have only recently come on my radar. For Sue this will be her first live experience of DB…so we’re both excited and looking forward to the show. 8pm – ish… We are seated in the lovely Birmingham Symphony Hall. It’s a truely great venue. We have avoided buying any merchandise (well I already have all the albums!), but we have our drinks. The stage is set; brass instruments lie on the floor each lit by a spotlight. I’m a keen photographer but have made a conscious decision not to bring my camera. I thought it would interfere with the experience. I know I would be looking through that viewfinder and missing the overall visua feast and atmosphere. Then on the loudspeaker system David Byrne anounces himself…’Hi, this is David Byrne’…he then goes on to welcome the taking of pictures, the recording of memories for your pleasure…although please be considerate of your fellow concert goers and don’t block their view with your iPads. ‘Also we hope you won’t experience the whole show through a mechanical device’…cue loud applause. I’m vindicated – hurrah! 8.15 ish and the show is underway – a two-hour feast, no support, no interval. Mr Byrne, Ms Clark and and eight-piece brass combo, plus drums, guitars, keyboards and at one point – a theremin! The show is fab; it’s been carefully choreographed (although not too strictly!), the lighting theatrical – in that is inspired by the theatre; simple, crisp and highly effective. The sound is also sharp, fresh and quite brilliant. The emphasis is rightly on the ‘Love This Giant’ album, but there’s a careful and healthy mix of music from both Byrne’s back catalogue (solo, Talking Heads and collaboration with Eno) and St. Vincent’s. What’s great is that it’s an even match – each taking their turn in the spotlight while the other supports or subtley steps into the shadows for a moment. The brass band also get their moment in the limelight and name checks. They perform more that just a supporting role, they are an essential part of the mix. Annie Clark totters on her high heels, animatronic like; David Byrne girates and grooves in his somehow uniquely cool style. The band march, dance, lie on the floor and on the Talking Heads classic ‘Wild Wild Life’ take lines in turn, reminisent of the scene in the David Byrne film ‘True Stories’. Thoughout the show two things struck me; the fact there were no egos were on show. Just talented musicians and performers, respecting each others space and having a damn good time. There was a feeling of joy and fun; emotions not always expressed enough. Everyone was having a good time; and when a couple dressed as a rabbit and a crocodile (which I thought was a dinosaur; again something that made me think of ‘True Stories’) were encouraged onto the stage to join in the dancing it seemed the perfect bizarre occurance. They were even encouraged backstage by Mr Byrne as the band left after a rousing rendition of ‘Road To Nowhere’. It summed up a strange and wonderful evening perfectly. Byrne and Clark work so well together it’s hard to imagine they won’t revisit this collaboration at some point in the future – for all our sakes I hope they do. For Sue and I it was off to the nearby Brasshouse for a couple of drinks and a chance to chat about the fab night we’d had, before we ambled back down the hill to the hotel, singing half-remembered lyrics, out of tune, at the top of our voices. A fantastic show, a great night. by Nick Ritchie Copyright of all photos belongs to the artists and Love This Giant Facebook page.