David Byrne

Live from Austin TX

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David Byrne is a man of many musical faces, but he's also a show biz pro, and while he's followed a number of musical paths over the course of his solo career, in concert he's shrewd enough to know he needs to give his audience (or at least a large portion of them) what they came to see -- namely, the songs he helped write while he was in Talking Heads. On Live from Austin, Texas, an album drawn from a set Byrne played on the PBS music series Austin City Limits in the fall of 2001, demonstrates how he can have his cake and eat it too -- while five of the thirteen tunes here come from his tenure with Talking Heads (and one is drawn from The Catherine Wheel, a solo project recorded while he was still with the band), he's reconfigured them to lean towards his fascination with world music while still holding on to the melodic structures folks remember him for. Roughly half the songs on Live from Austin, Texas also feature a string section including members of Tosca String Quartet, who add a fresh set of tonal colors to "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)" and "Life During Wartime," though the ensemble really gets their chance to shine on "The Revolution" (from Look into the Eyeball, the album Byrne was promoting at the time). While he sounds a shade more enthusiastic on his more recent solo material than the relative oldies in this set, overall he seems to be in a slightly subdued mood, though he rallies for his finale, a cover of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" that's far more sincere (and effective) than you'd imagine. In all, Live from Austin, Texas isn't the crackling live showcase you might hope for from David Byrne, though he never sounds less than professional and his head is always in the game even if his heart may be somewhere else. [A DVD of the show was also released.]

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