David Bryne – Live @ Spark Arena, Auckland 2018
Walking around the corner I expected to see queues of fans waiting to get in the doors to see David Byrne in his American Utopia tour but there was hardly anyone outside at Spark Arena last night. With only half an hour till show time, I took my seat inside and the arena was the emptiest I’ve ever seen. The sound of birds tweeting was gradually drowned out by a last minute rush of people heading to their seats with only 5 minutes to go.
WORDS BY KIMBERLEY JONES | PHOTOS BY NICHOLE DAVIS
The house lights went down and blue lights flooded the stage as opening act Kimbra made her way out in an eccentric hello dress with heels so high I admire her for being able to walk in them. Often times she couldn’t be heard over the electronic music and I am surprised at the choice of opening act as well. Being from two completely different music genres they were quite mismatched.
With diligent hands, the stage was transformed to be completely bare with the exception of a single table and chair centre stage with a brain on the table. A curtain of chain around the sides and the back of the stage was scrupulously tended so that’s it was 100% tangle free. With the house lights back up during this set up I see that many more have appeared to fill the arena in anticipation of the Talking Heads lead singer and now solo artists performance.
David enters stage just after 9pm to sit alone at the table and hold the brain. He leads straight into Here as the chain is lit with bright white lights and starts to rise from the floor. Joined by two others from behind the chain the night began with a big round of applause.
Lazy brought more out from behind the chain taking it to a total of 9 on stage, all moving around with most playing portable instruments. It was then that I realised every one of them were all barefoot! Ploughing straight on into I Zimba, the whole entourage come out onto stage rounding out the group at a total of 12. The crowd in the floor of Spark Arena was very quick to their feet and had many of them in the aisles making their way closer to the stage.
David took an electric guitar from side of the stage and showed everyone in attendance that he still has it! With everyone on their feet now in front of the stage the party had surely started. All I could think was wow what an energetic bunch. Amazing start to what I hoped would be a great evening.
Sliding onto Slippery People David’s vocals were just flawless. With some of the others on stage lending a hand in back up vocals and everyone with set dances moves I didn’t know where to look.
I Should Watch TV had David off to the side of the stage watching a tower of lights with the camera work implying he was watching a screen. Very well executed and the subdued choreography as a whole indicated this group had spent hours of rehearsals to get everything just spot on.
Forming a line at the front of the stage, red lights bathe the group as they belt out a powerful Dog’s Mind and we are graced with a small solo on the keyboard. David clearly wasn’t one to mince words as he finally spoke with the crowd he gave a brief story of how he had given this next song to a high school choir in Michigan to interpret in their own way.
He explained how to him Everybody’s Coming to my House would leave him feeling anxious not knowing when they may leave. However, the choir took the song on and made it one of “welcome and inclusion.” David finished the story by saying, “I wish I’d written that song” and of course was met with laughter.
“Speaking of inclusion” David started after the song was done, “I come from Scotland and moved to Canada as a boy” On the stage behind him David shared how they had so many from various backgrounds including 3 Brazilians and they wouldn’t be the same without any one of them.
Having everyone on stage all dressed in grey suits made it very easy for them to slip in and out of the chain for the various musical instrument changes that took place during the show. We were delivered a couple more Talking Heads songs, This Must Be The Place and Once In a Lifetime as we saw every inch of the stage used at one point or another. Doing the Right Thing had everyone off stage except David, however, parts of the instruments were peeking through the chain giving a very effective spotlight in the star himself.
Another short introduction to his next song which is a cover of Toe Jam by Brighton Port Authority now commonly known as Fat Boy Slim. Here I would like to take a moment to just applaud the sheer dedication that was present on stage. The bassist stood out to me most with the cheeky grin always in place and the amount of bounce that he had in his steps.
Taking the time to introduce the band one by one, David explained how 5 months ago in San Antonio, Texas, David was asked: “are you really playing all that music???” To which his reply was simple, “I have nothing against that stuff but everything you hear is being played by the people in this stage.” Even still that wasn’t enough for some so one by one as they were introduced we got to see how the next song, Born Under Punches, was out together. Layer by layer with each person bringing their piece to build into the rockiest number of the night.
At centre stage with an old style torch, David stood alone and delivered Bullet while the band were circling him around the edge of the stage. Every day is a Miracle and Like Humans Do were next up with Blind being performed around a light from the floor symbolising to me the effect of a campfire light. Rounding out the main set with the clear favourite of the evening, Burning Down the House. The crowd finally got their chances to sing along!
We were quickly treated to an encore of both Road to Nowhere and The Curve during which David absolutely nailed a guitar solo. No squealing of fingers sliding down the strings, just perfectly placed notes in a beautiful white electric guitar. The night, however, was not yet over. Back on stage with only drums as instruments David introduced Hell You Talmbout and directed us to look up any of the names in the song if we wanted to know what it was about.
I heard many comments throughout and after the show of the calibre of lighting effects and choreography. It was a well mapped and executed show that focussed on the standard of music rather than electronic technologies to aid them. Plainly speaking, David let the music speak for itself.