Concert Reviews

David Byrne and St. Vincent at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, 7/13/13

DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT @ DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS | 7/13/12 When Annie Clark noted how the first time she had heard David Byrne's music was when she saw Revenge of the Nerds, we thought we knew what was coming next. Instead, though, Clark played "Cruel," one of her own songs. A light-hearted joke in a sense? Perhaps, but she, Byrne and the rest of the band followed that up with a lively rendition of the Talking Heads classic, "Burning Down the House," with Byrne's iconic acoustic guitar intro drawing massive cheers from the crowd.

See also: - Annie Clark of St. Vincent on the concept of the provisional ego - Denver Botanic Gardens 2013 summer concert series line-up - Review: David Byrne at the Temple Buell Theatre

By the time David Byrne, Annie Clark and their band took the stage a handful of minutes past eight, the rain, which had been pretty steady until then, had finally let up and the lightning drifted off. Clark told us we should get the "Good Sport Award" for having stuck around, and then kicked off the set with "Who," the lead track from the duo's 2012 album Love This Giant. With a full brass band and woodwind players, it could have been a clumsy affair but instead it made for a full, rich sound.

The band played a good deal of Love This Giant but also mixed in choice selections from the discographies of both lead singers. "Strange Overtones" from Byrne's collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, was introduced as "not a song" from the album Byrne and Clark did together, though that introduction was delivered with the dry, self-effacing manner that characterized much of Byrne's joking.

The stylized stage moves might have seemed eccentric to some, but more often it came off like Clark and Byrne being theatrical, while also having some fun with that whole thing. From Byrne's pretending to dance with maracas and striking poses of flying to Clark's mini-stepping forward with arms akimbo in robotic gestures, as well as the clearly choreographed moves of the brass section, it was obviously not spontaneous but just the same, it never felt forced or stale. What's more, it made the show fun.

During "I Am An Ape," Clark played what looked like some kind of drum machine or an MPC. She looked like she was hunting and pecking as though on an old manual typewriter with a sound similar to that, only modified and amplified. The first of Clark's St. Vincent songs performed was "Marrow" from her excellent 2009 album, Actor. As usual, her guitar prowess and ability to make sharp, angular sounds flow melodiously was impressive. The band followed with "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)." It wasn't one of the big hits, but it's certainly one of the most beloved of Talking Heads songs.

On "Wild Life," Byrne described the video as a kind of karaoke sequence he had written a long time ago, and true to form, everyone in the group went up to the mike to sing a line or two. And although there was a keyboard player, the horns provided the sounds normally made by synths and the like in the original songs by both Byrne and Clark.

After "Burning Down the House," everyone left stage for a minute or a few but came back to perform "Road to Nowhere" and as that song segued out, David Byrne said, "And now from Denver, Colorado, Itchy-O." That's when the marching band began, having already walked on stage behind Byrne, Clark and company to cries of "Who is that?" and "What is this?" and the like. All masks and purple and gold and black uniforms with some members in sombreros and others with cowls and various other head coverings, Itchy-O must have seemed like something out of a dream to the uninitiated.

Even with the thirty-odd people on stage, having joined the expansive David Byrne and St. Vincent line-up in a bit of an overlap at the end of "Road to Nowhere," there was a grace and otherworldliness to Itchy-O's songs mostly intensely percussive and partly hauntingly electronic micro-melodies. Probably more than half of this audience did not even know who Itchy-O was, and for those that did, it was a nice and completely unexpected surprise to close out the night with two of its own compositions.


David Byrne and St. Vincent Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield - 7/13/13 (duo unless otherwise noted)

01. Who 02. Weekend in the Dust 03. Strange Overtone [David Byrne and Brian Eno] 04. I Am An Ape 05. Marrow [St. Vincent] 06. This Is the Place (Naive Melody) [Talking Heads] 07. The Forest Awakes 08. Like Humans Do [David Byrne] 09. Lightning 10. Wild Life [Talking Heads] 11. Cheerleader [St. Vincent] 12. I Should Watch TV 13. Northern Lights [St. Vincent] 14. The One Who Broke Your Heart 15. Cruel [St. Vincent] 16. Burning Down the House [Talking Heads] 17. Road to Nowhere [Talking Heads]


Personal Bias: The music of David Byrne has been a part of my life that I've never outgrown, mostly because there is no outgrowing music that unique and consistently brilliant. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) is one of my favorite songwriters and musicians.

Random Detail: Ran into Justin Couch of Quantum Creep at the show, as well as filmmaker Chris Bagley.

By the Way: Despite not ideal conditions in many ways, this was easily one of the most fun and masterfully performed shows of the year so far.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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