David Byrne and Tune-Yards @ Forest Hills Stadium, September 16 2018
As David Byrne pointed out early into his show at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, it had been 35 years since he had been on that very stage performing with Talking Heads in August of 1983. And now he’s back on tour, promoting his 2018 solo album American Utopia. It was a rare opportunity for me to be able to watch one of my favorite musicians play in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was “Once in a Lifetime,” and there was no way I wouldn’t relish every moment.
Dynamically choreographed and dressed in identical gray suits, Byrne led a marching band of 11, each with their instruments harnessed to their bodies and dancing barefoot across the stage. It was a remarkably unique show with contagious rhythm that looked as impressive from my seats in the upper bowl as it must have been from directly in front of the stage.
After getting down to a setlist including classics like “This Must Be the Place,” “Burning Down the House” and “Born Under Punches,” and the socially conscious “Bullet” from his latest album — Byrne closed the show with a cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout,” as he and the band did for every show during the tour. The song implores that we remember the names of black lives lost to police brutality and racial violence: Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Jones, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo, and more. “Say his name, say his name,” the chorus repeats. These names echoed throughout the same stadium in which Arthur Ashe became the first black man to win a Grand Slam tournament. There aren’t many artists 40 years into their career that continue making inspiring and politically relevant music, but even fewer those who use their (literal) stage to bring social justice into the spotlight. On Saturday night David Byrne proved he does both.