With a real desire to see more live performances from artists I admire, I found myself looking out for a copy of David Byrne’s Live from Austin Texas performance, widely considered to be his best live work in years at the time of its initial release. His latest Broadway tour seems to have blown this out of the water, and after a monumental disappointment with Ride, Rise, Roar, I was rather worried to test the waters once again. His solo work is rather underwhelming at times, but here, Byrne offers up some light reconstructions of his finest works.
His lyrical style for his Talking Heads work isn’t all there, they lack the reverbs and thunderous post-punk pop that the original recordings had. Obviously, a live show can only offer so much in the way of ingenuity, but here, Byrne phones in several songs he has performed better, live, elsewhere. I’m all for re-inventing the sound of old music, it’s what made Stop Making Sense such an invigorating, revolutionary set, but David Byrne: Live from Austin Texas doesn’t offer anything in that category. Instead, it feels oddly clumsy, a mix and match of clunky pieces that fit together only somewhat.
The clear highlight comes from Byrne’s quartet supported Marching Through the Wilderness, a lovely, relaxing song that integrates its instruments with a charming perfection. Violins that make a bed for Byrne’s lyrics, with the string section really applying their a-game here. In fact, most of the highlights can be found in this slower-paced, string-supported segment. Following his Rei Momo track up with Look into the Eyeball’s track The Revolution. His vocals are better suited to these rather sombre moments, it allows for the audience to connect with him far more than the covers of his Talking Heads work.
Nowhere close to the high I was expecting it to be, David Byrne: Live from Austin Texas is an underwhelming piece that will only appeal to the biggest fans of his craft. Even I struggled through some portions of this, with some rather off-key renditions of As She Was and Nothing But Flowers littering the hour-long set. A return to form, this is not, but it’s nice to see Byrne is trying to innovate with his old classics, rather than letting them stagnate in all of their critical and commercial success. He tries to improve on perfection here, and it brings little in the way of rewarding content.