Tonight would be the grand opening concert of the summer season for the Prospect Park Bandshell which is referred to as “Celebrate Brooklyn” when they do this sort of thing. It’s a fantastic series of free summer concerts that not only brings the music fans together but does something cool for the community around it. This season would start things off properly by having the event feature none other than former Talking Heads front man David Byrne.
New York City had been stuck in a seemingly endless run of rainy days and tonight the forecast was for heavy thunderstorms and as you can well imagine, the last place that I would want to find myself would be is in a park under those circumstances. However as the day progressed the sky would clear and the temperature warmed up to a very comfortable level. If the rain held out until after the show was over we would all be in for a treat this evening as this was truly the perfect setting for an outdoor show. Tonight I was joining stalwart PiercingMetal.com photographer Peter Parrella and neither of us were on what we refer to as “official site business” but instead were planning on taking the whole thing in as fans of music. Of course, knowing me, I was surely going to use some of the experiences that went down for the Musings Blog since this kind of thing fits in this area very well.
I had been to a number of outdoor shows over the course of my musical life but tonight would be the first time that I ever was attending one at the Prospect Park Bandshell and as you can tell by the photo we posted above, the original bandshell is not super huge but has been build up around inside a really sizable stage. These shows are really set up well and since they are done for free there is always the chance to just come to one and see if the music appeals to you. Tonight being the opening night of the summer season and featuring Mr. Byrne, we would find about 7000 people making their way into the park. I had heard that the line was rather daunting so I was happy that we got there a little earlier to avoid some of the craziness. They set up chairs which I think are available at a small charge, but tonight this was a special set up that I was fortunate to be a part of as opposed to not. Before the show began we wandered about and checked out the setup. There is a nice concession stand from Two Boots for tasty foodstuffs and of course a stand to get beers, wine and sodas. From the look of it, there were quite a few choices on either side which was a pleasant change from the ever present burger, fries, or hotdog.
Those who know my own musical passions already know that I was never much up on the music of The Talking Heads or even David’s solo stuff but that meant that I never opted to follow it much more than the fact that I hated it or would leave the room when it was turned on. I’ve always recognized his impact on the forming New Wave genre and do think that some of the bands original tunes are now classics in the Rock music world. Yet back then it was just not my thing. I listened to other bands, and tonight would be a great chance to catch up on what I had missed.
Over the course of his career Byrne had worked with the legendary Brian Eno, the Father of Ambient Music, and together two albums had been released. The first was all the way back in 1981 with My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and most recently in 2008 for Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. According to a couple of the people I had spoken to before the show began, this particular night and tour would be focusing on those two albums material. Clearly I would be the unschooled observer until he played a Talking Heads number, which I of course hoped that he would do at some point in the night.
Byrne opened the show by speaking to the audience and letting them all know that it was a great day to take one’s bike to the show. Apparently, the New York resident musician had ridden his own bike to the gig this evening. According to him, anyone who had used the “bike valet” was entered into a contest to win a brand new bike. I found that to be rather cool. He even brought the prize onto the stage to show everyone and I think that this is a great idea to do provided the weather is on your side for the show. Luckily we were now enjoying the show with a clear sky. Perhaps the rain opted to bypass us altogether.
The music was really enjoyable tonight and if you turned around to look at the surrounding crowd there were people for as far as the eye could see. According to some reports that surfaced after the show there were at least seven thousand people present in the park to hear Mr. Byrne this evening and that’s an amazing turnout if you asked me. I was finding that the show had brought together a lot of cool people as well and we managed to strike up some nice conversation with a couple of awesome young ladies who were kind enough to share their box of wine with us. Thanks ladies, you rocked and your kindness ever appreciated. We even talked to a charming Mom who was there with her daughter who had beaten the rest of their party to the seats and by doing so never managed to link up with them until after the show was long over. The downside of being off duty this evening made it very difficult for me to discuss some of the cool adventures that Peter and I had recently brought to the public’s attention via this aspect of PiercingMetal.com. I am sure that they would have loved to learn about the Woodstock 40th Anniversary Event or last night’s ZO2’s “Z-Rock” Premiere Party and Jam or even the upcoming CD Listening with The 69 Eyes. I did drop “subtle” hints to them, so one can hope that it piqued their curiosity. Perhaps they will surf around and see what we were talking about. So where were we? Oh yes, the David Byrne show.
He had a really killer band on the tour with him and joining David for the run of dates would be Mark Degli Antoni (keyboards), Paul Frazier (bass), Mauro Refosco (percussion), and Graham Hawthorne (drums). The musicians were accompanied by three backing vocalists in Kaissa, Redray Frazier and Jenni Muldaur and the whole shebang was enhanced even more by the presence of three dancers – Lily Baldwin, Natalie Kuhn and Steven Reker. The presence of all of the extra personnel allowed for quite the visual to be enjoyed by the fans and the successful blending of music, dance, and creative stage color was really working out. There was one song that found them using office chairs as props as the dancers rolled around the stage on them. It was kind of cool to watch and probably made people in the audience wish they could do the same thing on such a chair when they returned to their own desks at their respective offices in the morning.
It was interesting to find Byrne celebrating the music that he did with Eno on these two albums and I had almost expected him to make an appearance as a result of this, but that would not come to pass. I did some research afterward that found me discovering that the original intent was for Eno to join in on these shows but in the end opting not to participate. That’s a shame as I am sure that he would have been very well received based on his legendary status in the music world. Either way I will probably find myself looking into the two albums that were focused on to get a better appreciation of them going forward and maybe even try my luck on a Talking Heads retrospective for good measure.
The audience was very into the show from the moment that it started but seemed to come to a bigger sense of liveliness once he began the melodies of the “Once In A Lifetime” classic from the Talking Heads. Yes, this was the first song that I knew, but I explained myself earlier in the piece and for those curious I was really digging the whole thing anyway. Everyone was singing along to this one and I thought they were loud until he started to play “Life During Wartime”. The chorus had everyone moving and people who could do so were standing on their seats as the whole audience body of Prospect Park became a single organism that flowed to the tune. For me, this seemed like the closing number as it’s such a “hey we are done tonight” type of song but I would be wrong and the singer would do another tune and then leave the stage for a moment. The Talking Heads version of “Take Me To The River” came up next and this was the beginning of the encores. Normally bands only deliver one or two numbers before calling it a night but Byrne and company really didn’t seem like they felt like going home this evening.
The songs “Great Curve” and “Air” came up as we were led into the second set of encores and when “Burning Down The House” started to play I thought that the ground was going to open up under us and swallow us based on the level of energy that was hitting the pavement and greenery. I turned to Pete and said that there was no way that this was not the closing number and yet it was not. Byrne returned to deliver the slow and mellow “Everything That Happens” as the final song of the night. I have to say that it was amazing to find a performer delivering five encore numbers as that is something that not too many musicians offer their audiences. Especially during a concert that is free of charge. Kudos to you Mr. Byrne.
In the end this was a nice break from the running around and a great way to absorb some different music from a classic performer. As I watched the way that this was set up, I had wished that we saw more outdoor Metal shows in the states outside of the conventional Ozzfest and Warped Tour. Think about it promoters, get some of these band shells on board and start offering free concerts to the fans. It can be done. Those interested can click the link below to see what other events are going to be happening at the band shell. I was definitely glad to be a part of tonight’s fun and felt that I was part of a really cool audience body that left me with a lot of great memories. Shows like that are very worth one’s time.
Full David Byrne Photo Gallery: http://piercingmetal.com/david-byrne-live-photos-prospect-park-bandshell-682009/
One Fine Day
Help Me Somebody
Houses in Motion
My Big Nurse
My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks)
Moonlight in Glory
Life Is Long
Crosseyed and Painless
Born Under Punches
Once in a Lifetime
Life During Wartime
I Feel My Stuff
Take Me to the River
Burning Down the House
Everything that Happens
*** UPDATE *** 6/17/2011
David Byrne recently released the “Rise, Ride, Roar” concert DVD and while not from the same show that I wrote about, it is pretty much the same show from a different spot on the tour. You can order a copy of this wonderful show on Blu-ray via the link provided below.