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Concert Review: David Byrne and St. Vincent, 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle, WA 10/17/12

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A match made in musical heaven, David Byrne and Annie Clark—better known as St. Vincent—brought their thrilling show to a sold-out Seattle crowd Wednesday in a performance that highlighted individual strengths while also proving there’s quite a bit of aesthetic overlap between the two. Both supreme ironists with a knack for simultaneously embracing and undercutting pop convention, Byrne and Clark ran through almost the entirety of their excellent collaboration Love This Giant while making plenty of room for their respective solo work, and of course, some Talking Heads numbers.

David Byrne & St. Vincent at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. Photo by Dusty Somers.

Backed by the horn section that informs every inch of Love This Giant, the duo recreated much of the album, imbuing standouts “Who” and “I Should Watch TV” with an extra dose of warm bombast. But even more striking were the ways the brass section informed and transformed songs written without it. Ever in motion, the horn players turned into a singular, ominous force during St. Vincent’s “Marrow,” her pleas to “H-E-L-P, help me” matched by an encroaching brass threat surrounding her. Her latest, Strange Mercy (actually written in Seattle), got quite a bit of play, with the highlight being a blistering, apocalyptic rendition of “Northern Lights,” her swirling, jagged guitar work underpinned by mournful horns.

Byrne’s off-kilter creative stamp was visible on the entire production, from his bemused pre-show recommendation to not spend the whole concert viewing it through your phone camera to the charmingly deliberate choreography. But he probably spent as much time out of the spotlight as in it, often stepping back to allow Clark to do her thing, mouthing quietly along to her lyrics. He spent one song lying on his side, nearly motionless the entire time. When he did take center stage, well, it was just as delightful as one would hope. A quizzical, joyful “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” and a raucous “Burning Down the House” were matched by lesser known songs like the X-Press 2/Byrne collab “Lazy.”

Together, Byrne and Clark proved their intergenerational blend of adventurous pop music, leavened with doses of funk, jazz, world and hip-hop flavor, works even better live than it does on record. Byrne is a serial collaborator, but as their tour winds to a close, I hope that this isn’t the last we hear of these two together.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.