David Byrne’s American Utopia

American Utopia

Spike Lee documents the former Talking Heads frontman’s brilliant, timely 2019 Broadway show, based on his recent album and tour of the same name.

Throughout his career David Byrne has been a musician who constantly pushes the envelope and is willing to explore new dynamics, both in terms of his music with Talking Heads and his solo efforts, and the art direction he takes to his live shows. His 1980s concert movie ‘Stop Making Sense’ is arguably the finest concert movie of all time and the best praise that can be handed to ‘American Utopia’, his latest Spike Lee directed movie, is it deserves to stand up alongside that as a landmark for the genre.

I had the privilege to see David Byrne back in 2018 at a festival in Croatia (InMusic), where he opened the main stage on the first day with his set based on his latest album, ‘American Utopia’. I’m a big Talking Heads fan but hadn’t listened to much of Byrne’s solo stuff, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but I was completely blown away by it. The experience of watching this filmed version from a Broadway theatre was just as arresting, and from the comfort of home I was able to appreciate the intricate choreography and stage direction to a greater extent. The set is a mixture of solo material largely from his latest album and Talking Heads classics and it’s blended together by well-rehearsed routines delivered by a talented group of dancers.

The set is expertly constructed with the high points being many, including a rousing version of Janelle Monae’s ‘Hell You Talmbout’ and a particularly energetic ‘Slippery People’, but even the newer material is elevated by the performance art on display here. Like any concert movie, an in-built enjoyment for the artist’s music is essentially a pre-requisite but David Byrne is perhaps the exception – this, like ‘Stop Making Sense’ is no ordinary concert film and it’s well worth watching.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Spike Lee

Starring: David Byrne



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