Seattle’s annual City Arts Festival kicked off with the exciting new collaboration between David Byrne (Talking Heads) and St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark), performing their recent album Love This Giant. Clark’s blistering guitar work and Byrne’s theatrical style made for a highly charged, transformative event. Byrne and Clark were joined by a ten piece brass band of incredibly tight and coordinated individuals. The bill featured no openers and a stage production of epic proportions at the 5th Avenue Theater, regularly home to opera and ballet programming.
Throughout the night, Byrne was the “drunk uncle” to Clark’s angst-ridden teen. She’d whip around on tiptoes, slashing the air with the neck of her guitar, undulating and possessed. During her tracks, he’d stand slightly removed, nodding his head and singing along like a beauty pageant mom. Clark joined in the choreographed moves of the Stop Making Sense mastermind, often smiling to herself or outright laughing with him. This silliness was in no way detrimental; the creative respect and chemistry between the two was palpable.
The gem of the evening was “Lazarus.” Starting soft, it has an intense building energy, explosive brass acting as an infectiously funky baseline. The band formed two lines of four behind each singer, turning forward or backward to highlight their verses. The abrupt end and drop of lights sent the crowd into roaring applause. Byrne dedicated “Outside of Space & Time” to the Higgs-Boson particle, awkwardly joking that he “had one in his airline food today.” After a few unsure laughs from the crowd, Byrne giggled to himself, a charmingly insane genius.
Talking Heads songs were rare but packed a punch. “This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)” featured some very Byrne dance moves, surfing and chopping vegetables in thin air. “Burning Down The House” worked the crowd into a frenzy, bursting out of their seats and dancing.
Of the Clark tracks highlighted, “Marrow” shook the crowd to the bone. A single beam of light cast a monolithic shadow of Clark, and strobes bathed her during the song’s more manic moments. The band and Byrne closed in on her from every side until the lights cut, the paranoid protagonist engulfed.
By far, the collaborative highlight of the night was when the two stood facing each other, maniacally manipulating a theremin to Clark’s “Northern Lights.” The arresting solo was a theatrical masterpiece, beautifully chaotic and unpredictable, two innovative personalities combined into one overwhelming force.