A Magical Evening at Segerstrom
By Cleo Tobbi
The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa was home to the most comfortable, well-rehearsed and downright perfect rock concert performed by the legendary David Byrne and sensational St. Vincent.
I had heard their new collaborated album, “Love This Giant,” prior to the show but I almost wish I hadn’t because to have heard their set for the first time in such a spectacular setting would have been a dream.
The album was about three years in the making and well worth the time it took to finalize it. The show was not just a live display of their new collaborative album; it showcased a number of covers, as well as songs, off each artist’s personal repertoires.
St. Vincent, born Annie Clark, was a young lady in her dark purple dress and ruby-red lipstick but a kid dancing and shuffling around stage and throwing her curls around, sometimes matching the beat. Byrne, 60 years old and stiff at times, wore his white button-down shirt untucked and was able to entertain a crowd of early bird specials and 20-somethings when he swivel-kicked and karate chopped during “This Must Be the Place.”
Swivel kicks aside, this wasn’t your typical rock concert. First of all, men in suits with CIA earpieces greeted me into the theatre. Women wore heels and men donned neckties. Then, there were seats — red velvet seats, might I add. There was functioning air conditioning and the speakers radiated the tantalizing blend of the two spine-chilling singers and a boisterous brass ensemble. Needless to say, this was the probably the most comfortable rock concert ever.
But the concert wasn’t just a concert. It was a performance. Each person in the 12-member band, minus St. Vincent, was wearing black and white and, although in different forms, seemed like the band uniform. All members of the band, singers and horn-handlers included, danced in a variety of choreographed steps. The players swayed and circled around stage, and there was never a hesitation to head bob along to the bass. Although we had our cushy chairs, the crowd did not hesitate to stand and dance, especially to upbeat songs like “Strange Overtones” (a David Byrne and Brian Eno song), “Burning Down the House” (a cover from the Talking Heads) and the entirety of the encore set.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the crowd getting up to dance and, quite frankly, even enjoying the loud show at all, because about 75 percent of the audience was, let’s just put it this way, there just to see David Byrne.
During St. Vincent’s “Cheerleader,” all the members of the band were playing while lying down on stage — even the tuba guy. I’m telling you. This show was awesome. And I use “awesome” in the way it is to be used: extremely impressive or daunting, inspiring great admiration, apprehension or fear. I don’t mean it in the way people use it to describe the star design they got on their hip while getting a fake tan.
The lightshow was just as well choreographed as the musicians and performed to each tune wonderfully. When St. Vincent was rocking out, eyes closed, head banging and fingers jiving over her guitar, the lights were fast, colorful and seizure-inducing. Blends of purple, red, green, blue, yellow and white either set a solid background or glided around the stage to keep you constantly looking around in awe.
When songs slowed down, like in “Outside of Space and Time,” the lights were solid colors and created crisp silhouettes against the giant black screen behind the band as they stood in a straight line across the stage.
In addition to the setting of the marvelous Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the show was dazzling and overall aesthetically pleasing on a number of levels, and when it comes down to it, the live music was superb. I look forward to seeing the attempts of future performances I attend to see if they can match the one I saw last weekend. I really don’t think they will, though.
(photo courtesy of Andreas Laszio Konrath)