Stop Making Sense (1984)
Updated: Jan 17
I’m here because of American Utopia. In itself a great recording of an amazing show. David Byrne has form though. Over 30 years previous, with The Talking Heads there was Stop Making Sense. It’s another innovative performance, again captured well. Especially for the time when concert recordings were generally dry and dull. You’re not making a bad start when you can kick things off with ‘Psycho Killer’. Byrne on his own, falling gracefully around the stage with an acoustic. Accompanied by a backing track played on a boom box... not really it’s just a prop, but this is theatre. As the set builds... the set builds, literally. Tina Weymouth joins in on bass for ‘Heaven’, drummer Chris Frantz for ‘Thank You for Sending Me an Angel’ and Jerry Harrison on guitar for ‘Found a Job’. On we go, each song sees the band grow, with an impressive extended live band (Alex Weir, Steven Scales & Bernie Worrell are all awesome), whilst crew add bits to the once barren stage. It’s so simple, but it’s fantastic. Why have I not seen this before and of the 100s of gigs I’ve been to, why aren’t more bands this creative? Of course it all sounds great. The band are ridiculously tight, with funky baselines, scratchy guitars and Byrne’s distinctive vocals. I was quite shocked to learn recently that there was a lot of friction in the band, it doesn’t show here. It’s fun, energetic, celebratory. Everyone looks to be having a blast, no more than Byrne looking very youthful in his sharp suit (the oversized suit makes an appearance too). I dare you to try sit still. Especially when they bang out ‘Burning Down The House’, it sounds HUGE! Once the stage is set, the fun isn’t over. With more props, great lighting (some of which gets reused in American Utopia) and inventive video projections. You’d swear you were moving through different rooms. The whole band are brilliant, but keep your eyes on Byrne and you can’t go wrong. Like American Utopia, he’s the orchestrator, leading the front line in a series of bizarrely wonderful dance moves and the cameras don’t miss a thing. Directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), it’s a slick production and having all the cameras almost makes up for not actually being in the room. Seriously though it must’ve been wild to be there. Probably one of the best concert films I’ve ever seen.