When the energy of an amazing stage show comes across on an album, it feels like lightning in a bottle.
Recorded and filmed over three nights at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in 1983 and directed by Jonathan Demme, Talking Heads' “Stop Making Sense” creates musical magic.
Why re-release a concert album after 15 years? Because this is a piece of art to be celebrated.
1980s New Wave-Funk fusion innovators, Talking Heads are in their prime in these performances, showing off their uniquely eclectic and intricate style.
“Hi. I've got a tape I want to play,” Byrne says.
His “tape” is of a drum machine track that seems to play over a boombox. Byrne's voice and intense acoustic guitar strumming provide the rest.
The duo is then joined by drummer Chris Frantz for “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel.”
Pieces of the band continue to be added in this fashion, creating a bigger sound each go-round, reaching full strength with “Burning Down the House,” when nine musicians are on stage, nearly halfway through the concert.
The overwhelming energy produced by the entire band is baffling. Group members literally dance on stage while playing their instruments. Byrne gyrates his slight frame to the beat so incessantly, viewers of the concert footage may worry for his health.
The concert itself is a spectacle worth seeing. When you witness the band in action, Byrne's odd musical motifs and the synthesizer-heavy melodies are much easier to appreciate.
The music has a distinctly “1980s” sound, but keep in mind, these are the innovators, not the imitators (to paraphrase the band My Morning Jacket's “Wordless Chorus.”)
Talking Heads are hard to classify musically, which is perhaps why they have so many labels thrown at them: New Wave, Post-Punk, Funk, Experimental, World Music. All of those apply, and yet none of them do.
Stop trying to make sense out it and enjoy the music.