How Music Works: An evening with David Byrne & St. Vincent

Adrienne and I had the great pleasure of seeing David Byrne & St. Vincent in concert last night at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. The experience was thrilling. I’m a big fan of both these artists and their collaboration on Love This Giant is pure simpatico. It’s bizarre, beautiful, and a lyrical feast. One of the better albums I’ve heard in 2012.

The 5th Avenue Theatre was a challenging venue for a performance that seemed to invite and welcome the audience to dance. It opened in 1926 and mainly hosts nationally touring Broadway productions. The building is regal, ornate, and seems to impose a, ‘shutup, sit down, and watch the show,’ atmosphere. I’m sure it was selected to help accommodate the audience (the show was sold out) and the music itself (they perform with a brass ensemble and those instruments are best suited for a venue of that size and construction).

I’m currently reading David Byrne’s How Music Works. It’s a delightful and educational read and I highly recommend purchasing a copy. The first chapter, called ‘Creation in Reverse,’ is about how music evolved to fit the performance space and vice versa. If you’ve seen David Byrne’s TED Talk, it’s almost verbatim. Knowing that he–and by extension Annie Clark (St. Vincent)–has such an awareness of space, it seems that the performance was meant to be a visual and cerebral experience rather than an experience for your whole body. Or, at least, that’s how it played out in this particular venue.

I’ve seen both David Byrne and St. Vincent perform separately in different physical venues and on digital formats. To me, these artists are meant to be experienced with your whole body and not while you’re constrained to a chair. But that’s really my preference, I like music that physically changes you in way or another. A friend of mine had a saying, “Music should make you want to fuck, murder, or dance.” I find that statement illuminating and true.

It would have been an interesting experiment to move the same show to a venue like The Crocodile or Neumos. It would have been more intimate, kept the audience on their feet, and included the audience in the experience. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a terrific time! I’m putting it all into context of How Music Works and it’s sparking a lot of ideas and connections. Food, and music, for thought.

My favorite song of the night was St. Vincent’s ‘The Party.’ Here’s a clip of it being played live. The camera is a little shaky to start, but it settles down after about 10 seconds. Wait for the shadows. You won’t regret it. Simple. Perfect.

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