- Gareth Crook
American Utopia (2020)
This was one of my favourite gigs a couple of years back, certainly the most innovative show I’ve witness in, well ever! David Byrne’s American Utopia is as much theatre as it is concert and as a result probably works better as a recorded concert film than most. I’m not going to tell you in matches the live performance. You can’t replicate being in the room, feeling that spark of the occasion and sharing it with thousands. We can’t share anything live right now though of course, so having this recording is something of a blessing. Here you get the luxury of multiple cameras, close ups, alternative perspectives and there is a lot to see. Live the show looks bravely simplistic. Byrne and his band, barefoot and decked out in matching grey suits, housed in box made of chain curtains, one side open to the audience. Every song is injected with creative lighting and dancing. It’s every bit the performance. Unless you’re a big Talking Heads fan, a traditional show might be dull, expected. Not hear though, it’s wonderful whether you’re a fan or not. This I think is largely due to it all looking so much damn fun, it’s a celebration of music. The wires, amps, drum risers are all striped away. Each player is wireless, allowed to move freely and dance around one another. Not too surprising with the singers and the guitars, but to do this with keyboards and drums too, especially drums theres some seriously clever stuff going on there, well it looks like magic. It really is quite incredible, a good live band is a good live band, they’re tight and controlled, fluid. To do it with this many players, whilst following choreographed routines is stunning. Byrne is charming and humble as he delivers short monologues between songs and he’s in fine voice too. I am a fan, not a huge fan, but you get plenty of big hits alongside the American Utopia tracks to keep everyone happy and even through the screen, the joy of this music comes through. Perhaps most of all when the chains part in the curtains and more band members appear. With so much space, it’s not unusual for a dozen people to perform together, creating not only a wonderful visual, but a fantastic sound too. Byrne is the conductor at the centre, orchestrating his vision. One of positivity and inclusivity. It’s marvellous.