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David Byrne, St. Vincent: dynamic duo at SMU

Posted 11:50pm on Sunday, Oct. 07, 2012

Sunday night was a special night for at least half of the duo of David Byrne and St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, who appeared at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium. Clark, now based in NYC, is from Dallas (Lake Highlands High represent!) so the show was a homecoming of sorts. She took time to thank family as well as Dallas, Fort Worth, Flower Mound, and Garland. Though it was Byrne who slyly stuck in “Plano” at the end.

It was that kind of evening, one showing off a gratifying, playful give-and-take between a new-wave old soul (Byrne) who plowed new ground as the leader of Talking Heads all those years ago and one of the more critically lauded new faces on the scene (Clark). Their album together, Love This Giant, is a wonderful, horn-saturated confection of Byrne’s neo-tropicalism and Clark’s angular, twisting sense of pop.

The blend made for a pleasing pairing as they veered between songs he sings and those she handles, much like the album. The difference here though was that the songs -- especially Weekend in the Dust and the celebratory The One Who Broke Your Heart , came alive onstage, betraying a brassy funk missing from the recorded versions.

Backed by a 10-piece band (eight of which were devoted to various horns including sousaphone), Byrne and Clark ran through most of the new disc as well as some of their more popular other works, like Cruel for Clark and Road to Nowhere and Burning Down the House for Byrne.

What was unusual wasn’t just the dominance of horns but the way the players were used almost as architecture or sculpture. With everyone dressed in blacks and whites set against a stark, nearly empty stage with just a white backdrop, their positioning and shadows -- on their backs for one number, marching as if in a New Orleans parade for another, or facing off against each other like some West Side Story duel in yet another -- made for cool visual accompaniment and stagecraft.

Though, certainly, it was Byrne (still the master of his peculiar, stiff-limbed dancing) and Clark (who’s a monster guitarist though you’d never know it from listening to her discs as the guitar is downplayed) who commanded the bulk of the attention. By the end of the set, with a standing ovation and a four-year-old girl (part of Clark’s family) onstage, it was clear that Byrne and Clark make a very remarkable brand of music together.

So it wasn't just Clark who had reason to be happy. It ended up being a special night for the audience as well.

Here's their take on Burning Down the House, from earlier in the tour in Minneapolis:

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