David Byrne Place Des Arts, Montreal QC - May 25, 2004

After almost 30 years on stage, you would think that David Byrne would be used to it by now. Yet when he strolled out to introduce opening act Juana Molina, he still had the demeanour of a middle manager suddenly called upon to address a shareholder's meeting with some awkward jokes. That didn't change during the final bows, when the mild-mannered Byrne was positively giddy, glowing in the audience's applause as if he'd never heard such approval before in his life. But while in mid-song, Byrne is still a delightfully unconscious performer unafraid to moonwalk around the starkly lit stage or punctuate the beat with his trademark twitchy chicken neck, or even break into vocally demanding covers of Verdi and Cesaria Evora, which he pulls of on earnestness alone. He could do no wrong in front of the fawning audience - for a white artist who has built a career out of introducing a rock constituency to world rhythms, Byrne's audience proved to have no rhythm of their own by clapping horribly off-time. Thankfully, this did not throw off his ace band, which included the six-piece Tosca Strings. The set list was mostly comprised of his last two solo albums, with nine reinvented Talking Heads songs - not the same as it ever was. Having the strings play the riffs of "Life During Wartime" and "Psycho Killer" was a deft way of retreading the Heads' versions, as was the marimba-led "Naïve Melody" and the staccato strings revamping a totally unexpected "I Zimbra." The only flat moment came when Byrne played it safe on a rote version of "Once in a Lifetime," which paled next to recent material he was obviously more excited by, like "Descondido Soy" and "Tiny Apocalypse." As he should be - at 52, Byrne has now been a solo artist for as long as he was a Talking Head; even if his newer material isn't breaking sales records, hopefully one day "Glass Concrete and Stone" will be as beloved as "Heaven." Even though one of his new songs promises "I'm going to be that really cool guy someday," Byrne doesn't really have anything to worry about.