David Byrne and St. Vincent a dynamic duo in Vancouver
At the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday, October 20.
“Don’t watch the show with a gadget in front of your face.”
That was the message David Byrne gave the crowd over the house PA moments before he and current partner-in-crime St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark) took the stage at their sold-out performance at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday. Even though the occasional flash from an iPhone was seen during the concert, many seemed to be too overwhelmed with the pair’s playfully mind-expanding exploration of rock, jazz, pop and dance culture to bother with amateur shutterbuggery.
“Who”, the herky-jerky art-funk first track on Byrne and Clark’s new collaborative LP, Love This Giant, served as the perfect opener for the nearly two-hour performance. While setting up the unique back-and-forth between Byrne’s nervous-tick tenor and Clark’s elegant approach, the song also encapsulates the massive brass attack of the record. In an effort to recreate that live, an eight-piece horn section tootled out onstage during a series of dizzying, multi-syncopated melodies.
The set concentrated on Love This Giant, from the Tin Pan Alley oompah hybrid “The Forest Awakes” to the Tropicana Club-styled sizzler “The One Who Broke Your Heart”. Each artist also managed to steal away some time to showcase their work outside of the recent team-up.
Clark stood centre stage for her 2009 song “Save Me From What I Want,” letting out laid-back vocal musings before slashing into a skewed guitar solo that had her skittering across the floor and jerking her neck back as if 10,000 volts had just shot through her rig. Byrne later took over with Talking Heads’ early ‘80s avant pop classic “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”, which instantly had the crowd jumping to its feet as the vocalist gleefully chopped imaginary logs and played a mean air maraca.
The two excelled on collaborative tracks like “I Am An Ape”, which found Clark flicking her fingers on an 808 pad as if it were an electrified tabla while Byrne tried to keep up with an adorably hammy tap routine.
But much of the night’s sheer awesomeness can be credited to the horn section. It may have initially looked the trumpet, tuba, trombone, sax and French horn players were taking a mid-set siesta during St. Vincent’s slow-rolling indie-rock gem “Cheerleader”, but each player blasted things out their best while curled up on the Centre’s stage.
The marquee artists were well aware of their backup band’s prowess and thanked the hard-working crew for helping out on the six-week tour, which was capped with this Vancouver performance. “That’s not valve spit, those are tears,” Byrne joked of the horn section’s floor-soaking.
The first of three encores pumped through Talking Heads’ tribal jam “Burning Down the House”, which Clark explained she discovered via ‘80s comedy Revenge of the Nerds. A standing ovation brought the band back out to tackle a low-key version of St. Vincent’s wistful waltz “The Party”, and then the ensemble rumbled through Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere”, exiting the stage in conga line formation.
While musically more reserved than what we heard the rest of the jubilant evening, the neo-classical closer “Open the Kingdom”, which Byrne co-wrote with Phillip Glass, had the crowd crazily crying for more. Simply put, the Centre crowd loved these two giants.