on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2018 28 Jun

American Utopia

von: ijb Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments



American Utopia is not the fantastic album I had hoped it would be (even though Eno had some influence on it, and even though I find it mostly entertaining and enjoyable), but as I was way too young to go to rock concerts when the Talking Heads existed as a band, I decided to see David Byrne’s current, and highly praised, world tour stopping in Berlin, less than ten minutes from where I live.

It is impressive to see how contemporary these songs, which were written and recorded 35 to 40 years ago (I Zimbra, The Great CurveBorn under Punches, Slippery People etc.), sound more contemporary today than songs by many bands of the last 20/25 years – even though they are being performed very true to their original Talking Heads versions – though with very different, and mostly much younger [younger than me], musicians, like guitarist Angie Snow and bassist Bobby Wooten and lots of percussionists.

The new songs sound better in their live versions than they do on the album, in particular Doing the Right Thing, which they turned into a heavy rock number with metal-like guitar sections, and also the weird opening song I Dance Like This with its funny noisy sections. Still, most of the more recent Byrne songs come across a lot more conventional than the old Talking Heads hits, which the audience greeted and danced to enthusiastically. They must have appeared experimental and out-of-this-world in 1979/1980, but they still sound more modern than rather nice pop tunes like Every Day is a MiracleBullet and Like Humans Do. Even Blind from Talking Heads‘ final album (1988) sounded more energized (and energizing).

Excellent show with a minimal stage design and 12 musicians moving across the whole stage for the duration of the performance. If one wasn’t able to experience the Talking Heads live (apart from the remastered Stop Making Sense re-release in movie theaters some years ago), these performances of Remain In Light and Fear of Music songs must be as close as one can get in the 21st century. Looking forward to the live recording.

This entry was posted on Donnerstag, 28. Juni 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Great. Has its advantages to live in Berlin. Years ago, David Byrne toured „The Songs of Brian and David“, and I enjoyed every second of that time travel exercise in Düsseldorf‘s „Tonhalle“ – another dimension was added by the dancers involved (all in white). When I saw the concert film a year later, it didn‘t have the same impact.

    Six months ago I saw STOP MAKING SENSE on big screen at home, and it still sends shivers down my spine. Even more so, when I put up the volume of that CRYSTAL CLEAR sound – and hearing the applause, I sat at the right side of the audience.

    Tomorrow a London concert from 1978 will be released, from Bowie‘s big tour of those days. The double-cd has got a five star review in MOJO, and the writer says it‘s much better than the STAGE album from the same year. Mhmm. Okay, I wasn‘t thrilled by STAGE, but in that year long gone, I saw Bowie live at Essen, at it was a marvel. Unforgettable, to get a Warszawa-version live. And that Kurt Weill-song: wonderful.

    I missed to see the Talking Heads live in their salad days, though I played every album to death. Till Remain In Light, to be correct. When they were in my home town in Dortmund, I was far away. Still regret it, today.

  2. Jan Reetze:

    Okay, convinced. I will watch Stop Making Sense tonight.

    I think, David Byrne in 2008 was my first concert in the U.S., and I remember it quite well. It gave me an idea how the Talking Heads must have been in their heydays. And before that, they played Pittsburgh at a small place that had been a pizza place before it became a music club.

    This year I missed him, probably for my own sleepyheadedness.

    It’s completely stunning, by the way, how fresh all the Talking Heads records sound still today — as if they’re going to be released next Friday.

  3. ijb:

    Originally released as a Record Store Day exclusive in April 2018 but swiftly receiving a CD and digital release, Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) gathers 24 highlights from David Bowie’s two-night stint at Earls Court on June 30 and July 1, 1978. Apart from „Sound and Vision“ and „Be My Wife,“ which appeared on a 1995 compilation, this album consists of previously unreleased — but heavily bootlegged — live performances, all dating from the end of Bowie’s 1978 tour. Stage, which came out a few months after this performance, captures the same tour, but Welcome to the Blackout isn’t as stiff as that contemporaneously released double album. Bowie and band — which includes guitarists Adrian Belew and Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray, and drummer Dennis Davis, along with Roger Powell, a keyboardist who served in Todd Rundgren’s Utopia — are loose, sometimes rushing a tempo and sometimes settling into it, as they do on a louche „Heroes“ that kicks off the record. The positioning of „Heroes“ is telling: it’s not here as a triumphant closer but a grooving keynote, setting the pace for a set where Bowie attempts to find the right balance between art and a party. He doesn’t always get it right — Powell tends to overwhelm on the suite of Ziggy Stardust numbers, painting everything with swathes of synths — but the performance is invigorating even with its flaws.–mw0003173016

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Got the Bowie today. Amazon mp 3-file. Listened to one half in the shower, near the Atlantic Ocean in Saint Julien En Borne, and afterwards. Good energy, good review, this one. I know Earl‘s Court quite well (other story).

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