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David Byrne At Forest Hills Stadium, Saturday, September 15th, 2018, Reviewed

Of all the wonderful tricks David Byrne is pulling off in his current tour behind the iffy current album American Utopia, the greatest is one he has been doing since “Don’t Worry About The Government” -making complex concepts -political, scientific, philosophical, religious -simple. On stage he made the trip from “The Great Curve” to “Once In A Lifetime” and reversed it. The concert highlight, which was, indeed, one long highlight, reached its apotheosis as Byrne and his astounding musicians and dancers and backup singers, all untethered from  the stage, lived out “Once In A Lifetime” as a punchdrunk man who responded to the audiences compelled “my God what have I done?” with the greatest and only explanation: water running underground.

Byrne has been on the road since March with one of the singular and sensational concerts you will ever see. I can’t help but imagine that the folks who saw the “Stop Making Sense” tour (performed on the same stage forty-two years ago) felt the same thing. It wasn’t the amazing sight of fourteen people set free and also set close in formation on a stage, that was cool, but what was amazing was how it all seemed like child’s play . The stage was a bright lighted (like a heaven where something happens) white as John Lennon’s piano, bare stripped stage, everybody in the same gray suits,  and the sound was immaculate (no close circuit TV though we can forgive them for stylistic reasons)  and the songs, even those I’m not crazy about, were brought to life through a mix of choreography and a completely live sound. It was immaculate, it was an immaculate conception.

A beautiful evening for a concert, with Tune-Yards who I haven’t since they were a one woman band opening for Dirty Projectors in 2009 ,and nothing has weakened at all except the surprise. The best moment was the last two songs, “Gangsta” followed by “Heart Attack” though even the arty ones worked.

Byrne could have been a little more punctual (there is zero reason to be 23 minutes later than the email telling us what time you get on stage), and the largest prop on the stage was waiting for us, Byrne in full Hamlet mode as he Yoricked a brain for “Here,” -a song that leaves no impression even as it ends the album, yet brought to life it was very wonderful and it is again Byrne making the complicated simple.

During “Here” and after “Here” all the way to the final song of the evening, Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” Byrne and his band are flawless, absolutely, consistently, artistically valid and extremely pleasurable. No midset lull, nothing, nonstop dance, sound, and movement. I saw David Byrne with St. Vincent at the Beacon a coupla years ago, he was great there, but this is a truly astonishing performance to pull off. Dance music as indie art rock and all welcome here. Among other tricks, Byrne saves “Toe Jam” -a song he wrote with Fatboy Slim, from the slag heap of history, gives life to all seven new ones, and sure, we could all note a dozen songs we missed (I would have died for just about anything off Rei Mono), yet we have no complaints.

Alyson Camus reviewed the show for us (here) when it was at the Shrine in LA last month and she dubbed it making beauty from chaos. Precisely. Byrne is performing the show at the King’s Theatre today and tomorrow -do not miss this incredible performance pop art as he makes sense of the inexplicable. We have only one thing we do at rock nyc and that is to tell you what to do. Do this, go and see it.

Grade: A

 

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