American Utopia, the theatrical concert event from former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne , officially opens on Broadway October 20 following previews that began October 4 at the Hudson Theatre.
david byrne american utopia broadway review – Eleven Days (Feat. Cyndi Lauper)
David Byrne is often considered one of rock’s most arty icons. Teaming up with a crew of 11 prodigiously talented and hard-working musicians, backup singers and dancers of diverse ages and ethnicities, Byrne gathers a vibrant community onstage, over which he presides as part professor, part preacher, part partying proletarian. The sheer jubilation being transmitted by the performers, not to mention the dynamic staging, seem to demand a new kind of sensory intake. It’s less a concert than a participatory religious experience, honoring the primal pleasures of music, dance and song as collective celebration, a rite to be savored more than ever in dark times.
She is remembering all this in the SoHo production studio of David Byrne, her childhood idol turned frequent creative collaborator, four months before their latest project, American Utopia, arrives on Broadway. It’s a hot summer day, and the Talking Heads founder is walking Parson through his gorgeous archive of tapes, files, and art, to the office in the back, where they are working on the show’s transition from stage to stage—in this case, from concert venue to Broadway theater. They speak like old friends, which, at this point, they are.
Over the course of six albums as lead singer, lyricist and rhythm guitarist for Talking Heads, Byrne had developed a persona encompassing both innocent wonder and detached alienation, simultaneously observer and victim of the modern world’s complex machinery.
There’s no story as such, but there’s definitely an overarching statement about enduring openness, optimism and faith in humanity, even in a troubled world, that’s subtly threaded throughout, along with smoothly integrated political perspective. To sum it up in the title of one of the songs performed, “Everyday Is a Miracle.” Basically, that makes Byrne the cool Mr. Rogers.
And it’s tougher in ways that are different than it was when you were coming out. Is that your view? Yeah I would say so. When I was coming up rents were pretty cheap. I was sharing a loft with other band members, but I could pay my share with a little part time job. Which left plenty of time to do other things, like write songs. I think that might be hard to do now.
In a certain way, it’s people coming for entertainment,” says Byrne of Broadway, but in other ways it’s America speaking to itself.” In this story: hair, Thom Priano. Produced by Lola Productions; set design, Andrea Stanley.
In March 2013, he debuted a fully staged production of his 2010 concept album Here Lies Love at New York’s Public Theater , directed by Tony Award -nominee Alex Timbers following its premiere at MoCA earlier in the year.
Alex, who directed both ‘Here Lies Love,’ my pop opera about Imelda Marcos (co-written with Fatboy Slim), and later my rock musical ‘Joan of Arc: Into the Fire’ at the Public Theater in New York, brought some original, innovative ideas to the process, and we used those to build on what we had.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t offer a definitive conclusion on that front either way, as its highs—vintage Crazy Horse guitar workouts, a small handful of charmingly intimate ballads—are intermittently marred by the same sort of problems that have characterized Young’s recent solo work. This includes particularly tuneless vocals and a tendency toward clunky, Facebook uncle-level environmentalist and political ranting. An accompanying making-of fly-on-the-wall documentary, Mountaintop, is similarly schizophrenic, seemingly devoting about as much time to Crazy Horse effortlessly falling into their usual groove as it does to a cranky Young chewing out his engineers over a faulty monitor.
Here are songs with Broadway in the title. Stylistically, they are all over the map. The Funky Broadway” came out when I was in high school in Baltimore. On the local radio, they played the Dyke and the Blazers version and I assumed they were referring to Broadway in Baltimore, which is truly funky. They weren’t-though, they might have been referring to Broadway in Buffalo or the one in Phoenix where members of that band hailed from.
Enter the opposite side, person by person, through the magically porous, shimmering gray curtains that encase the stage. The musicians and backup singers materialize as a multiplying, multinational ensemble. Annie-B Parson’s exacting, exultant and altogether astonishing choreography often has them moving in a single, tidal wave. Yet each of these gray-clad beings is irreducibly individual, and even with Byrne center stage, you want to watch everyone else all the time, too.
I’ll start with the fans. If they haven’t seen the show before, it’s completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, but it still has a lot of songs they’ll be very familiar with. So I think they’ll be happily surprised and not feel like they’ve been assaulted by something completely unfamiliar. Broadway fans, my dream is that we get an audience at some point that is really pretty much unfamiliar with me and my material and Talking Heads, and doesn’t know these songs very much. That would be really exciting. If there’s word of mouth that this is just a good show, that’s moving and exciting and innovative, if that’s what they hear, then to me that’s a dream come true.
Also in 1988, Byrne’s fascination with world music – a longtime influence on his herky-jerky performance style as well as Talking Heads ‘ complex polyrhythms – inspired him to form his own record label, Luaka Bop , to give widespread American release to global music. That same year, the Heads released Naked, their final proper LP, leaving Byrne to give his full attention to solo endeavors. He resurfaced in 1989 with Rei Momo, a song collection inspired by Latin rhythms, and also directed the documentary Ile Aiye (The House of Life), which focused on the rituals of Yoruban dance music. In 1991, he again collaborated with Robert Wilson on The Forest, writing music for a full orchestra.
A gestational version of this story plays out over the course of the three songs at the end of Stop Making Sense (where the big suit is featured). On a frenzied take of Girlfriend Is Better,” Byrne is first seen in shadow, before the camera pulls back to reveal the ludicrous spectacle of his carefully tailored 10X Large. He wriggles and twitches bizarrely and mimes air guitar. He is the picture of a clean-cut, close-cropped, white-guy normie in garments ill-fitting from both a physical and psychological perspective.
David Byrne (born May 14, 1952) is a Scottish – American musician and artist perhaps best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the new wave band Talking Heads , which was active between 1974 and 1991. Since then, Byrne has released his own solo projects on record, and worked in a variety of media, including film , photography , opera , and Internet -based projects. He has received Grammy , Oscar , and Golden Globe awards for his achievements.
Here we recognize both performer and director’s wrangling with the song’s terrifyingly ambiguous premise (Demme would go on to direct the most disturbing and successful of psycho killer pictures with 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs). Over a skittering prerecorded beat, Byrne delivers a gestural performance suggesting Charlie Chaplin in the electric chair. The anxious, comic choreography animates the troubling subtext. Byrne’s narrator may be the killer or he may be killed. Either way, it’s a rock ‘n’ roll homicide.
As the group’s principle singer and songwriter, Byrne led Talking Heads for more than three decades. Best known for hits such as Psycho Killer,” Burning Down The House,” Once In A Lifetime,” And She Was,” and many more. Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Should audience members who are familiar with Broadway musicals come to this expecting the kind of story that they might expect from a typical Broadway musical, or should one approach this more as a concert experience? It’s a kind of hybrid. I wouldn’t say a story but I would say a narrative arc. So it’s not a story in the conventional sense but I think there’s a beginning and a middle and an end. And it takes you on a kind of journey through a person’s development. I think you get that. But it’s not done in a conventional way, like then this happened, then this happened, then this happened and or with acted out scenes of course. But I think audiences have sensed that. So we’re trying to bring that out a little bit more.
For Olsen, accepting that change is a constant has required the acknowledgement that no two people experience change in identical directions. On All Mirrors, she lets go of those who’ve required her to privilege their desires over her own, finding peace in solitude. That this is, ironically, her loudest, densest album to date seems to speak to the liberation that came with that solitude. On the album’s opening track, Lark,” strings gather like clouds, only to burst in time with Olsen’s voice as her delivery shifts from low and restrained to loud and confrontational. There’s a kind of ecstasy in the enormity of moments like this and others—like the tense, trilling strings on Impasse” and the ebb and flow of the synths on All Mirrors”—that reflects the scope of the personal and professional place Olsen is seeking.
Byrne recently announced the release of American Utopia during a presentation of Reasons To Be Cheerful,” an ongoing series he curates of hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures. The presentation was given at New York’s New School to a live audience and also was streamed via his Facebook page. He also released the first track from the album, Everybody’s Coming To My House ” – co-written with Brian Eno, featuring contributions from TTY, Happa, Isaiah Barr Leader of the Onyx Collective, Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Mercury Prize winner Sampha, and others. The song’s visual companion piece can be seen here Everybody’s Coming To My House” is available to download instantly with pre-orders of American Utopia on iTunes and at Nonesuch Store pre-orders also include an exclusive print facsimile of an early handwritten lyric sheet to the song.
Byrne’s Broadway stand — his show is here through Jan. 19 — follows in a path carved out successfully by Bruce Springsteen , who, two autumns ago, turned a deeply autobiographical concert into a hit theater event. Byrne himself is no stranger to musical theater; his lyrics and music, the latter with Fatboy Slim, enlivened the unique off-Broadway musical Here Lies Love,” about the rapacious onetime Philippines first couple, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. American Utopia” unites Byrne with Parson and Here Lies Love” director Alex Timbers, credited here as a consultant. The blending of their brains once again provides a splendid theatrical alchemy.
What the songs are about comes across through the staging. The band provides the answers to the questions raised,” says Byrne. See below for a list of David Byrne’s GRAMMY Awards history. The American Utopia star brought his show to Brooklyn Academy of Music October 22.
Together with staging and choreography by Annie-B Parson, and with Alex Timbers serving as production consultant (his collaborators on Here Lies Love), David Byrne and ensemble deliver a marvel of staging and motion” (Chicago Tribune) that’s as surprisingly poignant as it is supremely funky. Don’t miss this thought-provoking example of the power of live music” (Forbes).
DB: Oh, yeah. I can imagine a lot of bands, they’re gonna say, Oh, no. It’s not about money.” Yeah, it sure is about money! That really became something we had to deal with. As you’re implying, it was never approached directly. It was approached obliquely. The other thing is, sometimes musical interests really did take me to places that were not appropriate to execute with the band I was with.
Juice B Crypts biggest drawback is that, with so much going on, some of these songs get lost in the album’s frenetic whiplash pacing. A Loop So Nice…” is a fleeting piece of crystalline glitch-pop that suffers from its placement alongside its superior companion piece, They Played It Twice,” which features a vocal part from Xenia Rubinos that attains almost religious levels of ecstasy. Last Supper on Shasta, Pt. 1” gets some mileage from Merrill Garbus’s typically wild vocals, but Pt. 2” buries her singing under a mountain of noise.
Now, he’s adding to that list of credits with his stage show “American Utopia” which is heading to Broadway in October. The show will feature songs from his latest album of the same name, as well as some of Talking Heads’ older works, with added choreography, a narrative arc and lots of other special fairy dust that elevates something from a concert to a work of theater.
While American Utopia ” is essentially the same production that Byrne toured around the world for much of last year, it is far more suited to a Broadway theater than, say, a festival — in the intimate, seated confines of the Hudson, the staging, sound, colors and sense of movement have no distractions. But the show is hardly sedate: Before launching into Burning Down the House,” Byrne encouraged the audience to dance (while staying out of the aisles, in deference to the fire marshal).
Although best-known for his groundbreaking tenure fronting the new wave group Talking Heads, David Byrne is also acclaimed for his adventurous solo career, encroaching upon such diverse arenas as world music, filmmaking, and performance art in the process. Born in Dumbarton, Scotland on May 14, 1952, Byrne was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. The son of an electronics engineer, he played guitar in a series of teenage bands before attending the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where, feeling alienated from the largely upper-class student population, he dropped out after one year. However, he remained in the Providence area, performing solo on a ukulele before forming the Artistics (also known as the Autistics) with fellow students Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth.