David Byrne’s American Utopia

Emerson Colonial Theatre, Boston MA

September 23, 2019

Story by Jennifer Simon

from the video channel of Douglas Cowan

and you may find yourself

asking if you need to see an aging rocker on Broadway

and you may find yourself

wondering if your favorite concert film from 1984 can or should be updated

and you may find yourself

pondering whether even David Byrne is up to the task

and you may find yourself

in another part of the world, unable to attend American Utopia in Boston

and you may say to yourself

“My God! What have I done?”

Because if you haven’t seen David Byrne’s Utopia at the Colonial Theatre in Boston then you have seriously missed out.  Never fear, even though it closed this past Saturday September 28th, it reopens on Broadway at the Hudson Theater on October 20th (previews start October 4th).

I was excited and anxious about seeing the show last Tuesday, September 23rd.  Of course I have seen Stop Making Sense any number of times, shown it to my kids, own the music CD, own many other Talking Heads & David Byrne CDs and even seen the tribute band Start Making Sense multiple times.  I had heard the hype though almost no other details.  I knew the show was supposed to be completely different and intimate and a chance to see a legend.  I didn’t want to be disappointed and I wasn’t for one moment.

I am not going to go into too many details of the show, in keeping with Bryne’s desires for you to experience the night in your own way.  But some tidbits:  you can see/feel/hear the influence of Byrne’s work with Brazilian musicians, the legacy of his last tour with a marching band, the work of choreographer Annie B. Parson, the magical untethering that electronic microphones and instrument pick ups can bring to musicians.

The show has talking, but not too much. It has lots of the songs from the Stop Making Sense soundtrack, but other music as well. 

The sound is rich and fills the theater, but doesn’t leave your ears ringing. 

The theater is big for a theatrical performance, but so much smaller than any concert venue (and beautifully restored with lots of plush seating). 

Byrne sounds great and moves well.  Importantly, he sounds like himself. With all the musicians and two back-up singer/dancers, his voice doesn’t get lost in the mix.

The lighting and choreography are sophisticated but don’t overwhelm.  No flashing lights just for their own sake.  The whole show is more of a finely choreographed dance concert executed on amazing musicians, than a loose-limbed rock show. 

The evening will add to your enjoyment of the original album and give you a taste of the wonderful growth of David Byrne as a performer/singer/songwriter/artist.  

Don’t let the days go by – order your tickets now.

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