David Byrne & St Vincent

Chicago Theatre, Chicago, September 18

Pic: PA
Him in a grey waistcoat, black shirt and slacks, her in a shimmering blue cocktail dress. David Byrne and St Vincent look more like two polite wedding guests than a pair of boundary-shoving musical marvels ready to shake the historic Chicago Theatre to its glitzy core. It doesn’t take long, though, for the duo and their backing band to prove that this is no reserved reception soirée.

Opening up with ‘Who’, the lead track from this month’s superb ‘Love This Giant’ album, things get off to a slick and uproarious start. It might only be their second live show together, but the Talking Heads frontman and former Polyphonic Spree-ette’s natural, good-natured chemistry bubbles away, neither trying to wrestle thunder away from the other, both letting the other shine when their moment comes.

The show is presented as musical theatre and each song is an act unto itself. The eight-piece brass band are almost as vital as Byrne and Clark, their synchronised dips, dives and dance steps providing ‘Weekend In The Dust’, ‘I Am An Ape’ and ‘Optimist’ with a visual as well as sonic boost.

Annie Clark’s moves are just as compelling, as she twitches and jerks across the stage like a post-war Soviet animation, while Byrne, with his headset microphone, complements her with his own stuttering wind-up-toy judders. “We didn’t choreograph laughing,” admits Clark after a happy heckler gives her and Byrne the giggles.

Time is also made for their solo stuff with further accompaniment from the brass section. This means oompah versions of Talking Heads’ ‘Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)’, ‘Burning Down The House’ and ‘Road To Nowhere’, as well as St Vincent’s own ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Cruel’, laced with insistent trombone blasts, and ‘Northern Lights’, which leads to Byrne and Clark engaging in a climactic duel on the Theremin. Unquestionably the musical marriage of the year.

Leonie Cooper

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