Text by Ned Lannamann | Photos by Minh Tran
Now THAT'S what I call a show.
David Byrne filled the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Tuesday night for a show that celebrated his various collaborations over the years with producer/oblique strategist Brian Eno—who himself was nowhere in the building, but didn't need to be. Byrne has worked with Eno so many times that the concert functioned as a nearly complete overview of Byrne's career, whether it be the landmark albums with Talking Heads, or My Life With the Bush of Ghosts, or their newest collaboration, last year's surprisingly good Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.
Indeed, the show started off with one of the best songs from that record, "Strange Overtones," and Byrne, with humble and candid narration, hosted one of the best Portland concerts in recent memory. The slightly older, KINK-y patrons began the show in orderly fashion, but by mid-concert, the Schnitz ushers had their hands full with all the thirtysomethings overflowing the aisles to dance. Byrne, suited all in white, led a similarly white-garbed backing band of drummer, bassist, keyboardist, and percussion, while three charismatic backing singers (one of them from SE Portland! Didn't quite catch his name... something Frasier?) interacted with the three dancers who more than stole the show.
Byrne let the dancers—who seemed to do a mix of modern and ethnic tribal dances, to my untrained eye—have the floor, often receding to the sidelines during their spotlights. It was unpretentious, good fun; the dancers frequently were in unison, but often seemed as if they were riffing, and that choreography was a mere formality. Towards the end of the show, San Francisco's Extra Action Marching Band made its way down the center aisle to join the band onstage for an encore of "Road to Nowhere" and "Burning Down the House." It was pure spectacle in the best sense. The Marching Band brought their own dancers with them, a ragtag assortment of men and women dressed in remarkably skimpy attire. I doubt the Schnitz has ever seen that much bare ass-cheek.
A sidenote: I was seated directly in front of the World's Most Annoying Showgoer, an enthusiastic fellow who considered himself to be on a first-name basis with Byrne. "David!" he shouted in between numbers. "David!" He also added his own tropical bird sounds to some of the songs. "Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ayiiiiaaaiiii!," for example. At one point, he shouted one of Byrne's most famous lines at the man, which taken out of context, seemed like the dumbest thing possible to shout at that moment in time: "This ain't no party!"
He couldn't have been more wrong.