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David Byrne Concert Review

David Byrne
June 7th, 2018
Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts - Kansas City, MO

David Byrne
Watching an aging rockstar desperately clinging to the songs and dances that long ago propelled them to fame is mentally exhausting. Thankfully for the sold out crowd that filled the Kauffman Center's Muriel Kauffman Theatre, that's just the opposite of what took place on David Byrne's American Utopia Tour. Over the course of 21 songs, Byrne asserted his everlasting creativity, charm, and wit while guiding his band through a thoroughly imaginative performance.

Ditching a traditional rock band arrangement -- and his shoes while he was at it -- Byrne elected to march the stage with his band of a dozen. Save for a moment on "Burning Down The House" where Byrne was forced to shout off-key due to the volume of the drumming, the additional percussion enhanced several Talking Heads numbers by giving them a more worldly texture. As a result, the quaint and classic "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" felt right at home next a slice of "American Utopia." The choreography also flowed smoothly between marching, ballet, and a few subtle, but sweet moments of improvisation.

At several breaks during the show, Byrne was transparent about his political leanings and how America's current landscape has influenced his new music. He chuckled about Trump -- although never mentioning him by name -- in the way any centrist father might, but his plug for a voter registration org and his choice to end the show with Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout" -- a striking tribute to black and brown victims of police brutality -- clarified that he was prepared to walk the walk.

Benjamin Clementine
Byrne's choice to perform most of his former band's biggest hits did likely appease most casual fans in attendance, but through their vibrant arrangements, he made it clear that he was doing so on his own terms. Simultaneously, he brilliantly showcased the majority of a new record that many fans were likely unaware of before the show. The only conclusion that can be drawn after exiting the theater was that Byrne is still at the top of his game, and that any show of his is worthy of its own concert film.

English-born singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Clementine joined Byrne for several West Coast and Midwest dates of the tour. Clementine's avant-garde approach to pop music, dramatic delivery, and quiet commentary paired well with the night's headlining set, but his dark sense of humor and use of eerie mannequins as props allowed for enough contrast to make his performance a thrill in its own right.

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