David Byrne - lead vocals, guitar; Jerry Harrison - guitar, keyboards, vocals; Chris Franz - drums, vocals; Tina Weymouth - bass, vocals
This 1979 Talking Heads tour, promoting the release of their Fear Of Music album, would be the last to feature the stripped down quartet lineup and the first to gain them significantly more exposure in America. They had established themselves in Europe, but outside of college radio or the New England and California regions, America was just catching on to what an intriguing and captivating live band they were. This performance at Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music was one of the wildest and most memorable performances on this breakthrough tour.
With the original B52's opening this show, there was plenty of momentum before The Heads even hit the stage. This, combined with playing before an intelligent and relatively home turf audience, ignited an inspired performance.
The band's sound was clearly evolving, containing more complex rhythmic structures and song arrangements. The new songs had increasingly funny, yet even more thought-provoking lyrics. The overt awkwardness that frontman David Byrne often displayed onstage was just beginning to be perceived as the uninhibited expression that it really was, with many now dancing to it. His unusual vocal affectations were engaging and the music was clearly beginning to resonate more deeply, particularly in a live context. The set opens with "Artists Only" from 1978's More Songs About Buildings and Food, then "Stay Hungry" in a somewhat ominous style, with Jerry Harrison's keyboards adding even creepier textures than the album version. "Cities," a track from Fear Of Music follows. It's a galloping romp through Byrne's stream of consciousness thoughts about city life.
Other highlights of the set include a thoroughly engaging rendition of the non-album single side "(My Love Goes To A) Building On Fire," and an outstanding "Psycho Killer," featuring Byrne firmly in the land of no self-consciousness and the entire group ripping into a wild jam with blazing guitars; think of the heavy psychedelic fuzz guitar jam in the middle of The Chambers Brothers "Time Has Come Today" and you wouldn't be far off. The concert closes with an ecstatic audience demanding more, and an encore of the band's unique take on Al Green's "Take Me To The River." Originally a gospel number, Talking Heads completely redefine the song and in the process make it their own.
Shortly after this tour, Talking Heads would begin overtly expanding their musical parameters. Their studio recordings would soon reach an unparalleled intensity (and density) on their next album. They would make truly inspired choices at augmenting the stage band, without diluting any of their originality. With the help of MTV and its heavy rotation of the music video for "Once In a Lifetime" the following year, the band's music would reach a much broader audience.
This recording, however, is a fine example of the original Talking Heads literally reaching the peak of their four-piece powers.
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