05/22/04: David Byrne

So The Ninja asks me a few weeks ago what I'm doing on 5/21, and I said, "Nada. Why?" and he said, "Keep the night open, yo." So I did. On the ol' calendar went something like "Doing something with John, no idea what."

As the 21st grew closer I got giddy; I have always been a complete and total sucker for a surprise. :-) Of course, as the 21st grew closer, so did a streptococci, and poor Juan was down for the count. So, knowing he'd not be able to go, he had to spill the beans as to what the fun surprise night of yeehaa would entail because I needed to find a backup date or sell the tickets... to... David Byrne action at the Merriam in Philly. Dude, I was so stoked that I had these tickets, and also really sad that I wouldn't get to share 'em with him.

So I called up my good buddy Satan and told him he could have my soul for all eternity if John would feel better enough come Friday to go to the concert, and my buddy ol' pal ol' prince of darkness came through. So yes, I am now destined to spend eternity reading "Who Moved My Cheese" while discussing the book's salient points at a team-building workshop with business executives, while sharing a room with Carol Channing singing "Dji-monds are a Gyeerl's Best Freeeyaaand" on constant repeat, and where the only food will be those orange circus peanuts, mushrooms, and Clamato. But it's all worth it, because John was feeling "6000% better" and we had an amazing time. ("Thanks, Satan!" [insert toothy Davy Jones sparkly grin and a knowing wink at camera 4])

At this show I was moved in ways that exceeded any Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds or Bobby McFerrin gig. His opening act, Juana Molina, was TOTALLY engaging; even with my fancy music degree I have never heard music like hers before, and I don't know how I've survived without it. It's one of those things where the audience doesn't want to talk or move so they can absorb every single thing she's doing. Her voice is ethereal but not wimpy and annoying; it's crystal clear and spot-on accurate. The guy she was playing with (Alejandro somebody) played with synths and constantly f-ed with the pitch, and I trusted them completely. She sang one song in C, and he was playing some noodly-stuff right in the crack between B and C, and while it was a little uncomfortable at first, I soon felt new synapses sprouting and firing for the first time as I processed the way these classes of pitches interacted.

I'm cursed/blessed with perfect pitch, and if you told me ahead of time that I would be placed in a room with this type of musical thing going on, I'd probably gracefully bow out knowing it would send me into a mental-overload-bzzzt-bzzzt-short-circuit-tizzy. But this didn't. Like, at all. It was magical. It's like some aural/neural door had opened...

(Which, for the record, doesn't mean that I'm no longer irked by an out-of-tune guitar or a flat soprano. Nothing's changed in the way I relate to lame musicianship. I think it's a trust thing.)

Anyway, David Byrne takes the stage... he is gracious, intelligent, slightly uncomfortable and consistently awestruck at the crowd's enthusiastic appreciation. He's everything I hope a famous person would be. The concert is the kind of thing where you silently sit in your seat and are entirely absorbed and stunned... you forget about anything you have to do in your life outside of that theater. You are there for one purpose, and that's to have your mind completely blown. There was nothing to be catty about. Nothing to slam. Nothing to roll your eyes at. Nothing annoying. Nothing bad. It was absolutely amazing, and so very, very, very right. My attention was held for the entire time without doubt, even despite our uncomfortable theater seats. Many times I didn't clap... I just nodded silently and soaked everything in. More than a few times I felt my invisible halogens beaming invisible 74-billion lumens light in appreciation and awe. The string arrangements alone were so exactly what I wanted. His percussionist personifies multitasking-- it's like this dude holds a doctoral degree in each of the eleventy-billion instruments that were on his junk-table. The sound guy was clearly a perfectionist, and the light guy deserves to be canonized. David Byrne's voice is imperfectly perfect, stronger than I ever thought it would be, more accurate than I expected, even when he croons out a Verdi aria for no damn good reason and sounds like your drunk uncle... it's simply transcendant.

I know I must sound like a freak, but I'm telling you, I can't express what I experienced here in words. Yes, I speak in superlatives.

I can't beat this into your brains hard enough: GO SEE HIM IF HE IS ANYWHERE NEAR YOU. It is worth whatever inconvenience you must endure to get there.

No need to be a David Byrne or Talking Heads fan, really... you really have to trust me on this one.

Fortune Teller Miracle Fish today tells me that I am: somewhere between In Love and Indifferent. (We've got a moving tail and a slightly twitchy head.)   This is starting to lose the thrill, here.