Mariel Roberts' Nonextraneous Sounds Record Release Concert
Nic Armstrong at The Living Room

David Byrne and St. Vincent at Williamsburg Park

by Craig Brinker

Forward-thinking pop music icon David Byrne and guitar-wielding indie songstress St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark) teamed up for a beautifully conceived concert at Williamsburg Park in support of their recent release, Love This Gianta tense, concise record full of cryptic lyrics. The songs work beautifully in a live setting and, in retrospect, the pairing should have seemed inevitable. Both artists create heady music with complex arrangements and unusual melodies. Clark's influence tempers Byrne’s absurdist tendencies, while Byrne’s playful lyrics balance Clark’s penchant for melancholy.

Even at 60, Byrne has a strong voice and mesmerizing stage presence. He joked with the audience, dedicating “Outside of Space and Time” to the subatomic Higgs Boson particle. Clark said less, but seemed relaxed, enough so as to engage in a bizarre kung-fu theremin duel with Byrne at the end of her intense, slow-building “Northern Lights.”   

The set mixed equal parts from each performer’s solo catalogue and Love This Giant. The songs spanned a 30-year range, yet none seemed out of place. The old material was skillfully re-arranged for the nine-piece backing band, including brass players wielding everything from sousaphones to flugelhorns. The band skillfully executed the music and choreography, which became increasingly elaborate throughout the evening.

Instead of a stadium rock show with soaring choruses and bombastic accompaniment, Clark and Byrne presented a tightly wound, carefully rehearsed set, full of overtly funky pleasures and subtly complex arrangements. The duo traded roles as lead singer and guitarist, both capable in either capacity. Clark gave small tastes of her angular guitar heroism, but refrained from extended solos. The concise nature of the songs was part of the appeal, as the artists filled each four-minute song with twists and turns through unusual harmonies and surprising changes in texture. This was music crafted for music lovers.

Although the packed house appreciated the new songs, the second encore, which included “Burning Down the House,” changed the atmosphere into that of a dance party. The building tension of the previous 90 minutes was released in a tide of bodies in motion. Although the audience might have been more enthusiastic if it had just been David Byrne playing his hits, there was great pleasure to be had in enjoying two accomplished artists playing a selection of well-crafted pop songs.