Back in 1985 I saw the Talking Heads concert film ‘Stop Making Sense’ in a cinema in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I can’t remember who was with me, but I vividly recall the film. It was distinct, difficult to categorise and dominated by an energetic and eccentric David Byrne performance. 1985 is a long time ago, but the trailer below below might give you a flavour of its impact on my student senses.
Fast forward 35 years to a higher resolution 2021 and I have found myself again absorbed by an energetic Byrne performance on stage. With ‘American Utopia’, he once again has created something that visually and musically stands apart.
I doubt Byrne concerns himself with thoughts of brand, but American Utopia is a remarkable and ambitious example of brand innovation. At the age of 68 he has created a sensorial experience that retains familiar elements (including some songs from the 1985 film) and fulfils high expectations of something genuinely new. As a journalist enthused: “once again, he has taken a hammer to everything we know about contemporary music and beaten it to a bloody, lifeless pulp. You have never seen a show like this.” This trailer provides a hint of this:
David Byrne’s work may not be your ‘cup of tea’ (in fact it probably, isn’t) but it is a case-study in commitment to innovating and disrupting to retain relevance. American Utopia is founded on about 45 years of experimentation. Its execution embraces available technology to deliver something that is deliberately distinct.
After watching American Utopia I was left questioning my own energy for experimentation and improvement. I concluded I could do much better. Encouragingly, I can see my best work could be a decade or more away.