When David Byrne’s American Utopia tour arrived in Britain in the summer of 2018, the reactions of those lucky enough to see it ranged from dumbstruck to bemused. Dumbstruck because, in tearing up the rule book, Byrne had arrived at a way of presenting live music that was electrifying and revolutionary. Bemused because so many of us were left asking the same question: why don’t more artists move beyond the traditional ways of staging gigs?
Barefoot and in identical gray suits, their instruments — including keyboards and drums — hanging from harnesses around their necks and backs, the former Talking Heads frontman and 11 musicians from across the globe roamed across a bare stage draped in glittering metal curtains. Tightly choreographed by Annie-B Parson, they ran through a set list drawn from Talking Heads and Byrne’s solo career and collaborations. Blind, Burning Down the House, Once in a Lifetime, Glass, Concrete & Stone, Lazy, I Zimbra, Everybody’s Coming to My House: to witness these songs in such an expectation-confounding setting was to be led into a world of unlimited possibility. So, back to that question: why don’t more people do this?