music review

David Byrne and St. Vincent a dynamic duo at Orpheum

David Byrne & St. Vincent on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
Lloyd Bishop/NBC
David Byrne & St. Vincent on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Minutes before Sunday’s concert began, when the Orpheum stage was littered with brass instruments lying on the floor but devoid of people, David Byrne made an announcement from backstage: Picture-taking was encouraged. So was audio/video recording. But what he encouraged most of all was simply enjoying the experience and capturing it in memory.

A necessary invitation? Hardly. The former Talking Head’s performance alongside St. Vincent (also known as erstwhile Berklee student Annie Clark) consisted of one jaw-dropping moment after another. The two musicians radiated joy from start to finish, not so much for performing for a rapturous, sold-out crowd (though that certainly helped) as for the sheer act of making music.

Despite the guitars that Clark (usually) and Byrne (sometimes) brandished, the show was dominated by brass. The eight-piece section included such instruments as sousaphone, French horn and bass clarinet alongside more standard horns like trombone and saxophone. Rubbery and honking, they played like an origami New Orleans brass band, criss-crossing and interlocking before splitting up again in song after song.


They also added to the strong, if minimalist, visual component of the show, snaking around Byrne on “Road To Nowhere,” engaging in a pantomime waltz with Clark during “The Party” and lying on the stage for a dramatic “Cheerleader” recast as something like an odd James Bond theme. Byrne joined them for the latter, lifting his head to chime in on Clark’s chorus into his headset microphone and then returning to neutral.

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But there was little that was neutral about the songs. Inside-out guitar solos and sideways vocal melisma poured out of Clark on “The Forest Awakes” and “I Am An Ape,” while a theremin duel between her and Byrne kept “Northern Lights” on the verge of chaos without tipping over. The slow, searching “Outside Of Space And Time” (which Byrne dedicated to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider), meanwhile, served as a sort of soft fanfare for the cosmos.

As evidenced by a raucously received “Burning Down The House,” not only hasn’t Byrne become any less awkwardly graceful in the past three decades, his voice betrayed no sign of the passage of time. In fact, it seemed like the only ways he’d changed were that his hair was now a stately white and he’d finally found a suit that fits him. More importantly, he’s found a collaborator who fits him even better.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at<> or on Twitter @spacecitymarc