David Byrne – American Utopia Tour
Manchester Arena
Friday 2nd November 2018

Let’s just cut to the chase – this was a phenomenal evening’s entertainment.  Talk of this tour being one of the greatest shows of all time is far from exaggerated.

Support came from Benjamin Clementine whom I was unfamiliar with.  Their first song left me feeling a bit “meh” but by the second song I was starting to get into them, and 3rd song I was hooked.  Arena’s are always difficult venues for less familiar acts, but I think they handled it well and based on this performance I’d love to see them at a smaller venue.

After their set, the production crew cleared the stage and I kept wondering when they were going to setup the instruments for David Byrne, only they didn’t … His 12 piece band wore their instruments, so with nothing more than a curtain as a backdrop, a table, a brain prop and some lights, David and the Band had nothing more than music and dance to entertain the audience for nearly 2 hours – a bold move – but entertain they did!

With a show choreographed by Annie-B Parson who also choreographed the St. Vincent and David Byrne collaboration tour around Love This Giant, it’s no surprise that even without the music it was both mesmerising and entertaining, it sometimes felt as much theatre as concert.

Though I’m not an expert on Talking Heads/David Byrne, they played a phenomenal set, with the unfamiliar tunes going down as well with me as the massive hits.  By my reckoning, the only major hit notable by it’s absence was “Psycho Killer”.

Apparently the music sounded so good that a journalist had cast doubt on whether all the music you heard was actually being created by the band on stage, or if it was supplemented by backing tapes.  David quickly dispelled this rumour by asking the band individually to play their part – there was no doubt that it was all live.

Although there wasn’t much chat between songs, a bare footed David Byrne came across as both humble and likable.  For example, before “Everybody is coming to my house” he mentioned that a choir had done a version, and explained that whilst his original, due to his personality wasn’t particularly welcoming “the beer is drunk, when are you going home?” the choir’s version was much more welcoming and he preferred their version!  There can’t be many acts of his stature and caliber who would admit to liking someone else’s version of their song more than their own!

A few big names in music have ruffled feathers recently with overtly political rants, so it was refreshing to see David Byrne making a subtle but effective comment on immigration, pointing out that he was from Scotland (in the most American accent ever!) to a massive cheer from the crowd (he was born in Dumbarton but moved with his family to Canada when he was 2, before settling in Maryland).  He pointed out that all the members of the band were from different parts of the world, with 3 from Brazil and he could do his show without them.

Pointing out the positive aspects of immigration in this way is far more effective in my book than artists who shout “F**K Trump” for example, in my opinion.

David Byrne is someone you need to see live “Once in a lifetime” at the very least!  I’ve known a few people over the years who are Talking Heads/David Byrne obsessives – and having finally seen him live I can totally understand why.  A truly unique performer bursting with creativity and ideas, tunes that will force you to dance, lyrics that will make you think.

Next time he tours, don’t hesitate just buy tickets!  You won’t regret it!


Photos taken on consumer-level compact camera.