The beautiful and majestic State Theatre in Sydney played host to two amazing artists in their own right who have recently collaborated for the album Love This Giant, David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) and Annie E. Clark (St Vincent).
Both represent the old and new guard’s avant-garde rock, where traditional songwriting is thrown out the window. In collaboration, the two have produced an album that is, arguably, an acquired taste.
It was a sweltering and record breaking heat wave day in the harbor city as the audience took shelter in the venue beneath giant chandeliers and sculptures of regal people from another time. The sounds of birds chirping within greeted the audience upon arrival in the theatre.
As they entered the stage, loud rapturous applause greeted the stars who were joined by an eight piece brass ensemble, drummer, and keyboardist. Byrne dressed in white dinner coat and converse chucks, whilst the petite Clark was in a cute blue dress that bared her midriff. Their beaming smiles almost a pure reflection of the audience themselves.
They opened with ‘Who’, the first track on the album, with its thumping drum beat interplayed with the horn arrangements and Byrne’s unmistakable vocals.
Clark provides the catchy chorus singing “who is an honest man?” Like so many male-female duets, there is a romantic element to the songs and clearly there is much mutual respect between them. The success of the collaboration lies in both artists propelling the album in different directions, hence creating friction and making Love This Giant somewhat confusing and unsettling, much like a love story.
It was immediately clear how highly choreographed the show was, where each individual on stage knew where they were moving for each composition – making the transitions tight and elevating the show.
The charming dance moves were like a guessing game for charades – pom poms, cross-country skiing, karate, and making boxes. Also heard was David’s heavy, almost comical breathing, triggering scattered laughter from the crowd.
St Vincent continued her cool ballerina-on-flats move, side-sliding across the stage as her soles worked overtime, whilst playing the guitar mercurially.
Both are given time to shine with each individual’s solo material given performance time, St Vincent covered ‘Save Me From What I Want’, ‘Marrow’, ‘Cheerleader’, ‘Northern Lights’ and ‘The Party’. David Byrne’s contributions included ‘Lazy’, ‘Like Humans Do’, and ‘Strange Overtones’.
A set highlight was provided from one of the collaborations off the new album, “Optimist”. Clark’s voice floats through the theatre with the dreamy horns and programmed drums beneath. It’s another example of the extraordinary songwriting and was beautifully performed.
The collaborations are inventive and chaotic with the experimentation clearly working. “I’m gonna take a guess that not everyone here knew what they were getting into,” Byrne mentions to the audience. His stage presence is sometimes cheeky or aloof, making him the cool uncle you always wanted.
Introducing ‘I Should Watch TV’ with a snappy comment. “This next song is a dedication to Adelaide’s gift to the world: The Murdoch Family,” quips Byrne.
The encore kicked off with St. Vincent’s ‘Cruel’ as Clark shuffle dances along the stage with her petite frame supporting a soaring and captivating voice, those alluring eyes filled with joy. It’s clear she’s enjoying the moment as much as we were.
Her confessional story about being a fan of Byrne’s at the early age of three, due to watching the movie Revenge of the Nerds. More specifically, how fitting the song was for that particular scene in the movie and proved to be a touching “thank you” to Byrne before launching into Talking Heads’ ‘Burning Down The House’. People streamed down the aisles to dance and also a few Wayne’s World moments of “we’re not worthy” salutations!
Finishing with an almighty rendition of ‘Road To Nowhere’, it was an incredible night seeing two worlds collide into one on stage and the hard work that was undertaken to ensure such a show came to fruition.
As Annie E. Clark mentions, “magic takes planning…” Three standing ovations later, it’s clear another Sydney Festival delight was witnessed tonight. David Byrne and St Vincent providing an early front runner for gig of the year in 2013.