September 14, 2004 By Jeff Guinn
At this point in his career,
it's less a matter of what David Byrne does musically -- which is
anything imaginable -- than how he does it. Last night at Bass Performance
Hall, Byrne brought along a three-piece rhythm section and the six-piece
Tosca Strings from Austin, and the resulting hypnotic cacophony
had the near-capacity crowd up and dancing from the first notes
of Glass, Concrete & Stone through the throbbing funk of Once
In a Lifetime.
Few other artists could elicit a two-minute delay between songs
waiting for shrieks of audience joy to finally subside. Fewer could
draw an eclectic crowd ranging from 50ish Talking Heads diehards
to mohawked high schoolers, but Byrne's appeal is that universal.
Monday night, his manic commitment to entertain was fully expressed,
whether in exaggerated hip shakes during Auscencia or a stage-long
dance in between verses of The Great Intoxication. Even between
songs, Byrne was masterful, pondering the Freudian aspects of the
Grand Canyon, or mentioning that lovers who inspired a tune had
broken up, "but the song lives on."
The only flaw during Byrne's set was not of his own doing. The sound
mix was horrible, with the Tosca Strings so loud that the bassist
and percussionist were too often inaudible.
Byrne's opening act was equally impressive.
Sam Phillips delivered an 11-song, 45-minute set that was an example
of nothing less than near-minimalist magnificence. Standing stock-still
at center stage, backed by a three-piece band, Phillips sang about
life's tough rather than tender places, augmenting the music with
comments about the true definition of "torch" songs and
somehow turning "Hope will kill you" into a laugh line.
Only anticipation of David Byrne kept the crowd from demanding that
Phillips stay on stage all night. If she ever comes back to headline
at the Bass in her own right, you ought to be there.
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