Remaking Sense

David Byrne comes up big-time in Stop Making Sense.

The sly galoot in the Big Suit was a hoot.

Anyone who was at Red Rocks when Talking Heads singer David Byrne sauntered on stage the night of August 26, 1983, with his gassed-back hair, oversized outfit and white sneakers will probably agree that the concert was one of the all-time fun-house romps.

Starting solo, then gradually joined by other Heads and musicians, Byrne burned. "Psycho Killer," "Once in a Lifetime," his take on the Reverend Al Green's "Take Me to the River," and, of course, "Burnin' Down the House" were among the songs that crackled with the voltage that kept Byrne bobbing on stage like some mad marionette.

Fortunately, filmmaker Jonathan Demme also found this tour worthwhile, and his 1984 documentary, Stop Making Sense, could be the best concert film ever. Captured at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, the concert is as intriguing visually as it is musically. The project is a fusion of Byrne's artistic vision (after all, he did meet bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz at the Rhode Island School of Design) and the skills of Demme, who went on to direct The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia.

All the performers dance, interact and display unbridled joy -- or, in the words of Weymouth and Frantz's Tom Tom Club, which performs briefly during the show -- "Fun, natural fun." As good as Frantz, Weymouth, guitarist Jerry Harrison and others are, though, it's Bryne who holds everyone's eyes as he shifts shapes.

The soundtrack for the film -- digitally remastered a few years ago to include new songs which weren't on the original release -- will get a full-throated airing when Stop Making Sense kicks off the Midnight at the Mayan Series. It probably won't take much imagination to conjure up that warm Colorado night almost two decades ago. But even those who weren't lucky enough to have been there will still have their senses drenched in the starburst that is Stop Making Sense.

It should suit them big-time.

 
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