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David Byrne


David Byrne w/ Si Sé

September 21, 2001 @ Avalon

Eager to continue the crowd-pleasing party he had brought to The Paradise a few months back, David Byrne came on stage five minutes early to introduce his latest Luaka Bop signing Si Sé (Spanish for "Yes, I know"). Rooted in a rhythm section of chunky, bouncy bass and two busy percussionists and led by a vocalist reminiscent of Sade and Basia, this guitar-less ambient sextet took the building audience through a sweeping set of songs of love and war. From a Carnivale rhythm break to a funky Spanish clap-along to a drowsy Indian drone, to a sample and violin-cut bit of street soul, the band wandered the planet in search of diverse grooves.
When Mr. Byrne returned to the stage, the crowded hall subjected him to the first of many long and humbly accepted ovations. Opening with a xylo-tar and bass duet of "The Revolution," Byrne delivered a reworked retrospective of old and new favorites, backed by a solid rhythm section and, later, a string sextet. From a product placement plugging "Nothing but Flowers" to an appropriately orchestral "Sax and Violins," Byrne was subtle but firm in his political stances. "We’re all naked if you turn us inside out," he observed in the creeping AIDS anthem "Butt Naked." Given the circumstances surrounding the show, songs like "Life During Wartime" and even "U.B. Jesus" (which includes the line "Jesus will kill you if you don’t get along") took on extra weight. Weight was a minor element of the show, however. Most of the time, Byrne slipped about the stage like Fred Rodgers on Ritalin, mumbling intermezzo messages which tried to explain the odd places from whence his almost too clever songs come. From the land of quirky covers came a take on "I Want to Dance With Somebody" which was arguably better than Ms. Houston’s version, even without the lyrical acrobatics. From a performance art-y "Broken Things" to bilingual selections from Rei Momo and an electric and vocally experimental "Once in a Lifetime," Byrne gave it all and the crowd ate it up. It may not have been Mudd Club or CBGB’s but it was obvious that, in Byrne’s own words, "This Must be the Place."

- Matthew S. Robinson
c. 2001, M. S. Robinson, ARR


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