David Byrne: Here Lies Love at Carnegie Hall
I can't believe it was 30 years ago that I saw the Talking Heads at NYU's Loeb Student Center. I think I went with Dean, Wally, and probably Tom. A couple of summers later I saw the "T-Heads" play Wollman Rink (the B52s opened), and that was it for me and David Byrne for a long, long time.
Then last night Debbie and I had the great good fortune of scoring seats at a sold-out Carnegie Hall for Byrne's excellent, energetic, dance-in-our-seats performance of Here Lies Love, his as-yet unrecorded series of songs about the life and times, the rise and fall, of Imelda Marcos. Yes, the subject sounds kind of random, but as Byrne explains, "her story is the timeless story of power, politics and psychological needs. Our own recent history is overflowing with unmet psychological needs. God help us when powerful people act out their issues on a world stage!" Imelda was also something of a party girl, a disco queen, which gives a welcome dance-music sensibility to the songs. In fact, Byrne wrote much of the song cycle with "contributions" from Fatboy Slim.
Looking trim, fit and, as is his wont, somewhat awkward and geeky (especially during his extremely appealing between-song banter), Byrne shared the stage with two superb female singers (Joan Almedilla and Ganda Suthivarakom, playing the roles of Imelda and Estrella, the woman who raised her), and a band that included an outstanding rhythm section in percussionist Mauro Refosco and drummer Graham Hawthorne. For the last five or so songs—including the lovely Solano Avenue (on which Imelda grew up) and Order 1081 (the Marcos edict declaring martial law in the Philippines in 1972)—they were joined by a 15-piece orchestra, which of course brought another layer of lusciousness to the proceedings.
Men Will Do Anything, Rose of Tacloban, Dancing Together, Eleven Days... really, there were so many good songs, and I can't tell you how amazing (and nostalgic) it was to hear Byrne belt out his jittery yelps and pretty falsetto. I felt bizarrely proud of the man, who after three decades plus of doing his own creative thing, and influencing the heck out of so many good bands, remains relevant enough to sell out the likes of Carnegie Hall for a concert of songs no one in the audience had ever heard before. A great night; a truly memorable show.
Much more info on the song cycle is available here.