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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lori and I went to see David Byrne last night at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Here is a review of Dave's performance along with that of the Extra ACtion Marching Band, who joined Dave late in the set.

The Fillmore is an amazing place. As you come in, you are surrounded by the memorabilia of music in San Francisco from the 60's and 70's, as well as artists from our own era. In fact, on the way to the ballroom, you are greeted by a large picture of Dave from 2001.

We milled around until the show finally got underway at 8:45pm, 45 minutes late. Since it was so late, we assumed that the EAMB was a no show. Dave came out with his band and the Tosca Strings, a string group from Austin. They cranked through a number of Dave's solo songs as well as stirring renditions of several Talking Heads songs. "Psycho Killer" with strings is interesting!

The strings left and Dave did a few more songs, then the strings came back, they played a few more songs, and 2 encores. The last encore, the crowd really didn't want Dave to leave, and all of a sudden he said,
"Ladies and Gentlemen, make room on the floor for the Extra Action Marching Band!"

From the back of the ballroom, the sound of drums and brass could be heard. The drummers to me sounded very Stanford like, but fuller in sound. Accompanying the band was a bacchanalian drill team consisting of 3 women and two men, dressed in nothing but beaded G-strings (tops for the girls as well) undulating to the beat of the rather large percussion section and a brass section playing a vaguely Latin cross between a samba and a march. Along with this was a crazy haired guy screaming words and noise into a megaphone. Dave and the rest of his band watched from the stage with a great deal of interest--Dave of course performing what can only be called
David Byrne dance moves--but all eyes were focused on the band.

After one or two songs on the dance floor, the percussion section joined Dave's band for a cover of "Don't Fence Me In" (who did that originally?) and then all the horns joined in to play a rousing rendition of "Burnin' Down the House," which sounds great with horns, even if they aren't good. It was funny, because I had been considering all through the concert that I should email Dave and have him add horns to his songs as he added strings.

Dave's band left, and the EAMB continued with a couple more tunes featuring the whole band slithering back off the stage into the crowd again, and quite a lot of drum circle plus horns playing. At one point, one of the scantily clad drill team members--all wearing wonderfully 70's but sort of Paris Hilton looking blond wigs--was passed over the crowd. At another point, the drill team had a mosh pit going. The brass section consisted of several different sizes and shapes of Tuba (at least 4), another 4 or 5 trombones and 5 trumpets.

I think the one thing that really struck me was the way they were able to move the crowd with what appeared to be almost unstructured movements, causing reactions from the crowd based on nothing but primal music sounds. That's what it really was, after all, a drum circle with horns and dancers. It fit well in the San Francisco environment, but I don't know how well it would play at a family art and wine festival. ;)

In any case, it was fun, and I'd recommend it if you're into David Byrne or Talking Heads at all, and just consider EAMB thrown in for dessert.

posted by Bob R. 4:47 PM

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