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Live Review: David Byrne & St Vincent

21 January 2013 | 9:22 am | Ross Clelland

The standing ovation as the lights came on was absolutely warranted.

It's a given that musical bowerbird David Byrne will, at the least, keep things interesting for himself. But where in his burgeoning musical partnership with St Vincent's Annie Clark did they go with the idea, 'Sure, let's make a brass-band record'?

The album itself, Love This Giant, may be lost a little in translation; the intricacies of it a little muddied. However, in performance it becomes a wheezing, blurting, embracing, breathing, living machine – done with an obvious theatrical care, from when you enter to the sounds of the forest, bird noises, the scuffed and shiny metal strewn about the stage with deliberate carelessness. A good-natured Byrne then came over the PA, announcing we're welcome to take photos and such “…but don't experience the whole show just looking through a gadget”. Fair enough.

The band strolled on and collected their items. Flanked by drums and keyboards, there's an eight-piece changeable variety of trumpets, trombones, French horns, saxophones – and special mention to the guy who lugs a tuba throughout. The album's ostensible and literal lead song Who, has Byrne and Clark perfectly distanced and averted from each other. But this, and most everything else, comes choreographed. The suck-and-blow contingent are always in motion and pose: one moment New Orleans funeral, then halftime entertainment at a college gridiron game, or the chess scene from Alice In Wonderland.

While the Giant album centres the show, their respective catalogues are grab-bagged. Talking Heads' This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) early on was wistful and breezy. Clark was no bit player. She teetered back and forth, then delivered Cruel with a dark longing before hacking out some startled and jagged guitar noise. She and he even war-danced around a Theremin solo during Northern Lights. Byrne's eccentric dancing and demeanour remain a thing of odd wonder.

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Things being what they are, the encore, Burning Down The House, finally got the artily restrained crowd from their seats, followed by the intense detachment of St Vincent's Party. A final rousing conga-line of Road To Nowhere seemed a celebration made for this conglomeration. The standing ovation as the lights came on was absolutely warranted.