Top Fucking Shelf

David Byrne & St. Vincent – 5th Avenue Theater, 10/17/12 – Seattle: I was a little skeptical going into this show, I have to admit.  As much as I love David Byrne and The Talking Heads, the only time I’d ever seen him live was years ago during his solo years at a show at Berkeley in Boston.  It was a very experimental and avante garde show.  I couldn’t get into it.  Mr. Byrne had since released the amazing “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”, which saw him returning to fertile ground in his partnership with Brian Eno.  It’s an amazing album.  I missed him for that tour, bummer.  So, ok, this would be the next best thing.

Now he was working with an unknown quantity (to me at least) on his collaboration with St. Vincent on the recently released “Love This Giant”.  People were telling me how awesome St. Vincent was, but I hadn’t had time to listen to her before the show.  I also didn’t have a ton of time to really let their collab album sink in.  I could tell there were moments of genius, but I hadn’t really absorbed it yet.

A random group of us with my friend Emily as the nucleus had a great dinner before the show and unfortunately got there 1 song in, they played the single form the album – ‘Who’.  I hate when that happens, but we rolled with it.  The 5th Avenue Theater is a place where a lot of “theater” happens and it is a beautiful place with a lot of seats in the balcony, so we quickly found our home. Proceed with the mind-blowing.  The show was amazing.

David was in his white suit with a headset mic; St. Vincent had her guitar and a honkin’ foot petal set up off to stage left; behind her a keyboardist/synch/sounds guy; back right was the drummer and walking, dancing, strutting, generally killing it was a bevy of wind musicians who rounded out the sound with a ton of big-band-like depth.  You could see Mr. Byrne’s hands all over this, the musicians (save for the drummer and the keyboardist) didn’t just rock, they performed art.  There were choreographed routines where the band with Byrne and Ms. Vincent would march around stage as they performed their songs.  For “Cheerleader” from St. Vincent, the whole band laid down on the floor while she performed a huge powerful cord masher, David Byrne sitting up from his prone position during the rockin parts, his only role on the song without his vocals was to round out the performance art in an interesting and unique way reminiscent of the performance art he would work into the live shows for the Talking Heads.  They did come out of RISD after all…

David Byrne is listed first in the presentation of their group – David Byrne and St. Vincent – but based on the jaw dropping performance of Ms. Vincent, it would be understood if you called them St. Vincent and David Byrne, she was incredible.  The performance they put together with those amazing musicians made me appreciate their album anew, in listens afterwards I heard songs that they played that night that were so amazing and deliver most of what we saw on stage even in a less than ideal car setting.  It also made me understand all of what people were saying about St. Vincent before the show.  I needed to immediately become a fan of hers.

She towers over everything that she does.  She has this raw sexual energy, vamped out in a mini skirt and heels, and a serious understanding of music as theory and as raw emotion.  In my subsequent research, I learned that she started playing guitar at a very young age and attended Berkeley, and the child-like excitement and the technical prowess both shone through.  She is a force to be reckoned with.  There is something I like to call “PJ Harvey 2.0” going on between her and the lead singer for Deep Sea Diver, Jessica Dobson.  All three dark-haired beauties who command and get respect through command of their craft.  Amazing to listen to, transfixing to watch.

Now that I was a convert of Ms. Vincent and this collaboration, I could enjoy all that it had to offer and it offered a lot.  Classics from the Talking Heads like “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” and “Burning Down the House” to songs from St. Vincent’s catalog that were amazing and of course songs from the album.  “Naive Melody” made everyone in the room so freaking happy, there was raw joy in the air that led to a very long-standing ovation afterwards.  St. Vincent told this great story of how she first came to learn about The Talking Heads from the movie “Revenge of The Nerds” which led into “Burning Down The House” after a pit stop at another song.  It was a great tease, “she’s talking about ‘Burning Down the House’, I can’t believe they are going to play that, I’m so excited…oh, they aren’t going to play it…ok…that’s fine…WAIT they are!!!”  The one that was grabbing my attention from their album before the show and delivered completely was the hauntingly poppy “Ice Age” which prominently features St. Vincent.

Overall, this was top fucking shelf entertainment in every way.  Complete professionals at the top of their game and a great collaboration of extremely talented musicians young and old.  Can I have some more please?

Setlist from a San Francisco show, which was very similar to what we heard here, couldn’t find our set list:

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