David Byrne performing his American Utopia Tour at The Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Thursday 1st November 2018.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Touring to support his first solo album in sixteen years, American Utopia, David Byrne delivered one of the most awe-inspiring productions you could ever hope to see and certainly the best concert that the Motorpoint Arena has allowed to grace its stage this year.

From a twenty song set list there were six new songs alongside an array of classics, cleverly bridging the gap between old and new. But he began the evening seated at a table stroking a plastic human brain as he started off with new song Here.

That was the only splash of colour on a bare grey stage encircled by shimmering chainmail curtains. And as the entire 120 minutes was immaculately choreographed by Annie-B Parson with a bare foot Byrne leading an eleven piece band as they frantically weaved around a stage devoid of any amps, sound monitors, drum kits or other unnecessary rock clutter, all dressed in the same grey Kenzo suits.

As a lustrous Lazy filled the Arena followed by a pulsating I Zimbra, the band came through various sections of the curtains wearing keyboards or a variety of percussion instruments and the crowd immediately knew that they were in for something different and very special.

With each band member also being a performance artist, this show was not just a feast for the ears but visually it was outstanding. With the ensemble moving their feet in pre-planned patterns, forming clusters and then separating, sometimes receding behind the curtains, sometimes peeking out from them, sometimes treating Byrne as a leader and sometimes ignoring him. Everyone is ebullient, but none more so than dancers Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba who added to the whole concept.

I Should Watch TV from Byrne’s album with St Vincent saw him cowering from the light of a goggle box, and Toe Jam written with Norman Cook’s Brighton Port Authority, saw a beaming smile from a man who was so clearly enjoying himself.

The old Talking Heads favourites were pure pleasure and were really diverse with the likes of Slippery People and Burn Under Punches (The Heat Goes On). This Must Be The Place saw his crew move back and forth in synchronised lines turning the stage into a catwalk and on the punchy Blind, Byrne and his band turned themselves into living shadow puppets.

A magnificent version of Once In a Lifetime saw everyone on their feet and as he finished his main set with one of Talking Head’s biggest hits, a delirious Burning Down The House, the crowd were noisy in their appreciation.

For the first encore there was a dramatic Road To Nowhere and an awesome version of The Great Curve, so it was a surprise to see Byrne and his band come back onto the stage to cover Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout, which saw them all become a protest line, standing shoulder to shoulder shouting out the names of young African Americans killed by law enforcement or racist violence.

Producing a show that many will be talking about long after the Arena lights went out, Byrne had delivered one of the most exhilarating touring spectacles in the history of music, and leaving him with a big problem; how does he better it.