You may find yourself reading this write up, and you may find yourself questioning what strange lede I’ve decided to open with this time around. And you may find yourself slamming your laptop shut, and you may find yourself in your office punching your computer. And you may find yourself in a beautiful coffee shop, with a beautiful latte. And you may ask yourself (after spitting out said latte), “Well…. Did I just read a lede ripping off “Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads?”
To which I answer, “Yes! Absolutely!” Granted, the degree of deftness or effectivity of said lede remains to be seen, but for the writer, it’s served its purpose. Just a little bit of fun tonal setting for what was by far and away the most unexpectedly fun shows in Nashville this year. No, The Talking Heads didn’t come to town - they are no more, for all intents and purposes - however, the indie avant garde deity better known as David Byrne did make his triumphant return to the Mother Church for an evening of truly unparalleled performance and artistry.
I’ll be the first to admit, my expectations for David Byrne’s Ryman show were unequivocally skeptical - he’s 65, and American Utopia has only been in occasional rotation in my personal music collection in 2018. But believe you me, any and all skepticism went out the proverbial window almost instantly once Byrne took to a table amidst a surreal minimalist stage to perform “Here.” (Presumably) plastic brain in hand, Byrne pointed out various portions of the brain as applicable to the song. For as peculiar a premise it is, the song really is beautiful, and live, sounds just as good, if not better.
As alluded to earlier, the preconceived notion of American Utopia tunes sprinkled throughout a “Greatest Hits” set of The Talking Heads standards was gone before things began. What took its place was arguably the most earnest and avant garde Ryman set I’ve ever witnessed at The Mother Church, and subsequently, in Nashville. As Byrne cavorted about stage - with deceptive spryness - I couldn’t help but feel silly for ever expressing any sort of internal skepticism. The crowd was raucous, and I do mean raucous. Nearly every song saw scads and scads of Byrne faithful pouring out into the aisle ways to dance and sneak video/pics where available.
Naturally, there were songs from The Talking Heads’ songbook, and “Once in a Lifetime” served as an amusing, unofficial intermission for most in attendance, because following the exuent of the song, roughly twenty to thirty percent of the audience popped outside to grab another drink, stretch their legs, smoke a cigarette, etc. But every song in what wound up being a twenty song, double encore set saw some sort of utter and distinct joy from the audience met with a presumed and unique sense of satisfaction from David Byrne.