I have to admit that I was never a fan of Talking Heads. I say that in the sense that I knew who the band and enigmatic lead man David Byrne was, I knew the songs Once in a Lifetime and Psycho-Killer. I knew about them, but I had never dipped my toe into their discography or listened to them as religiously as my friends. I’ve never seen Stop Making Sense and the handful of songs I knew; I could count on one hand.
Nevertheless, I entered American Utopia, wondering what to expect from this concert film. And I don’t wish to be a hyperbolic but I came out a different person. At the very least, I emerged an ardent Talking Heads and David Byrne fan.
Directed by Spike Lee, American Utopia is a concert movie of Byrne’s Broadway musical show of the same name. Byrne leads a procession of 11 musicians, all donned in grey suits with bare feet, dancing across the stage whilst playing wireless equipment.
Byrne is a delightful performer, emulating warmth and delight through his performance and music. There is such a kinetic manner that flows through Byrne that lights up the stage and, therefore, the film. Through telling stories. Byrne has an awareness of the world; speaking eloquently on matters such as mental health, Black Lives Matter, and more. He also touches on how art and music can remould and reshape us beautifully.
There couldn’t be a more incredible collaboration between Byrne and director Spike Lee. The masterful way that the Academy award-winning actor cinematically captures the vibe of the stage and the music is exhilarating. Every step and beat is caught in the lens with the vibrancy of the stage. As the shadows dance alongside the performers. There is also s a montage of those killed by police and matches the anger that Byrne delivers in his cover of Janelle Monae’s protest song Hell You Talmbout. Spike Lee and David Byrne are a dynamic pair and American Utopia is a blend of different artistic mediums: Music, performance, and cinema.
Also, it features one of the most delightful credits which relates to many aspects of the show.
American Utopia is a wave of energetic joy with important messages of fighting for worthy causes and spreading love across this fractured world. There is something so enduring and endearing about David Byrne, Talking Heads, and the prolific music he has created over the years. It is so much more than a concert; it is a message of hope. A soothing balm and its release at the end 2020 feels apt. Head into the blue again and allow this American Utopia to wash over you and immerse yourself in the glorious world of Byrne.
David Byrne’s American Utopia is available on Digital Download on 14th December and DVD on 11th January