Quirky, forbidding, yet oddly charismatic, David Byrne of the Talking Heads is one of rock's most fascinating leading men. Last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Byrne led the band (in this year's eight-person incarnation) through a propulsive, ecstatic, 90-minute set, turning the outdoor Pavilion into a churning dance club.
Although Byrne's songs typically deal with urban paranoia and post-nuclear alienation, the band last night was actually playful, and less academic in its approach to the pan-cultural polyrhythms it borrows.
Fixing the crowd steadily with his blank, black gaze, the Chaplinesque Byrne was uncharacteristically animated. Oepning with a throbbing "Psycho Killer," he riveted attention to himself. While the band wove hypnotic and irresistible funk patterns with an arsenal of whistles, bells and exotic percussion instruments, Byrne was a one-man "Land of a Thousand Dances," launching himself spasmodically like a man caught in gunfire, limbo-ing and creating vaguely Egyptian dance steps.
During the second encore -- a controlled but anarchic "Life During Wartime" -- the show became a communal concert, with the dancing crowd chanting the contradictory refrain "This ain't no party/This ain't no disco/This ain't no fooling around. . ."
Opening the show was the Jamaican reggae band Burning Spear.