In a year of utter misery some uplift comes from, of all places, David Byrne ex lead singer of Taking Heads and someone with a serious sombre persona but whose film American Utopia shows him as actually an amusing and witty musician. Inspired by his recent album, Byrne along with 11 other musicians and dancers, sees him in suited but not booted (all are bare foot) performing on a stripped back theatre stage. Sat alone at a table holding a replica brain looking at it with the same puzzled look as disgraced football commentator Andy Gray being told that women now have the vote, he begins the show.
Song by song he is joined by the musicians as they perform with his impassioned plea for us to connect with one another in an act of community during a time when, in light of the pandemic , has shown that ultimately we’re all in this together. Byrne, as the driving force behind his seminal band Talking Heads always had a singular vision which he has continued long after they disbanded in 1991. American Utopia though is his plea for inclusion and that America is, and always has been, a giant melting pot of cultures as is his on stage band which he freely admits he could not do without.
Part concert, part performance the screen is just alive with joy as Byrne takes in the obscure (Dadaist poems) to the inclusion of his best known songs with their sly lyrics still as relevant to what America has been through in the past year handled catastrophically by a President more interested in golf than his people. Once in a Lifetime’s ‘You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?’ to Burning down the House’s , ‘Watch out!, you might get what you’re after’ is as much a comment on how America ended up with such a leader as anything else.
Shot by Spike Lee his cameras perfectly capture the show and like Taking Heads brilliant concert film ‘Stop Making Sense’ this is an equally good concert movie that bookends the now 70 year old Byrne’s career. A little overlong there’s no denying American Utopia’s positive and uplifting message.
Here’s the American Utopia trailer…….
AMERIAN UTOPIA IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM 14TH DECEMBER