Film Fridays – Ride, Rise, Roar.


Or, David Byrne and his minions at work again. This was a film unbeknownst to me until I took my break around 9:30am sometime last week, in which I always go round the corner (with my cup of tea and Brunch bar) and see what the Little Theatre has to offer for the coming week. Despite it being called a “theatre”, the Little is actually a tiny cinema. Not as small as Wells, but still pretty miniature. My findings told me that something Byrne-related was on this week, so I informed my Talking Heads-loving housemate and, lo and behold, Thursday found us in the exceptionally comfortable seats of said cinema, with a G and T in a plastic water bottle each (so bloody classy, I know) (and it was actually and G and L – lemonade had to substitute the lack of tonic).

I don’t know as much about Talking Heads or Mr Byrne as Zoe (the aforementioned housemate) or Benchlad (or all his music-loving friends) do, but I am assured they’re gravity in the realm of “good music” is pretty high, and it is true to say that their music does sound a hell of a lot better than most of the drivel to come out of the ’80s. They seem to get a pleasant mix of synthetic and depression, which seem to be the two main themes in music from that era. Yes, obviously I know there’s a vast amount more to it than that, but to someone who is still relatively new to their back catalogue, this is what it comes across as.

Now. The film. It’s not a film as such, but I’m struggling to find the abbreviation for it – like Biopic, or RomCom. I suppose it’s a concert documentary. Let’s go with ConDoc. That is my phrase of the day. ConDoc. This ConDoc was exceptionally enjoyable, and I especially loved seeing the process from getting ideas for songs to creating them with someone to being asked to go on tour to creating the tour and what the audience see. This was not ‘Stop Making Sense’ – this was much better. Really. It’s not just about the performance at the end of the whole thing, it was about everything leading up to that moment, and how everything involved in the show at the end was vitally important to the makeup of what the audience saw. This element of the ConDoc I particularly liked, in fact it was what made it. There were a fair few interviews with David Byrne interspersed with the music, usually relating to the next song to be played. It did amuse me when we saw his studio in New York, with thousands of pounds worth of equipment dotted around, and after looking around a little, he said “Well I only really use this”, pointing to a Mac, “The rest can just be put into storage. Brian sends me his stuff over in an email, in MP3, then I doodle around and get some lyrics going… That’s kind of how it goes really.”

We were only allowed one interview with Mr Eno, and it lasted about two minutes, but he does seem like a standup chap. Far less eccentric than you might imagine, in fact I’d much rather go for a pint with him than Byrne. The latter seemed rather “away with the fairies” in this, but Eno seemed reassuringly normal. There was a fantastic discussion between the two were Brian was finding irritation with people asking what the lyrics of a song meant, and how that seemed to be all they thought about, when in fact they’re only a tiny part of a song – they can even just be a five-minute afterthought on occasions. There’s far more meaning in the music than people imagine, which I suppose is why I find classical so moving as you can feel so much in it. Then again, it’s much easier for people to relate to words, much more than the crafting of music. Which is another point for classical – the only words you really get are in German or Italian.

The song performances were pretty good – there was a lot of Talking Heads involved, which pleased me (as I knew more of it than anything else he’s done), and I believe members of the audience (Zoe included) were tempted to have a groove on occasions. It was a mixed bag for the audience – a few middle-aged, a few older than us (we were probably the youngest there) (this keeps happening to me), and there was one chap who was at the stage of falling asleep by 9pm and really should have had an escort home. He was not drunk, just about 80 or something. Anyway – the songs. ‘I Zimbra’ and ‘Burning Down The House’ particularly stood out, the latter partly because someone had thought it was a good idea to wear skirts for the occasion. As we got to see the interviews, this idea had apparently come from wanting the Rockettes (precision dancers from Manhattan) to appear on stage with them but their fee was too high – so how they went from that to all wearing skirts is beyond me, but it was comical. Byrne in a skirt is most amusing.

The only criticism I have of the whole thing is the inclusion of contemporary dance… WHY in God’s name does this dance form exist?! They look like hippie retards at Glastonbury who were trying to get in touch with themselves and the Earth through the power of dance or some bollocks. They look like idiots. Fair enough I have been tortured by having to actually DO contemporary dance for THREE YEARS OF MY LIFE so I believe I’m slightly biased on this subject, but why ‘dance’ like a fool when you can do something that actually looks good? That said, the audition notice must have been outstanding – “Ever wanted to prat around on stage to some awesome music with David Byrne leading the way? Well, now you can!” I found, if nothing else, there was far too much focus on these people – it was not supposed to be about how odd their movements could be or how much it might put the audience out of their comfort zone: it was supposed to be about David Byrne and Brian Eno and the music they had created. At one stage, these dancers even had a guitar each as their prop, doing things only Jimi Hendrix would have been daft enough to try (why play the guitar with your sodding teeth when you can play it better normal and not look like a tool?). I found it a little strange. I did see the point about not wanting to just have dancers as a visual and not wanting it just to be people moving traditionally along to some songs in a pop sense, but I don’t feel they fitted particularly well. Probably just me and my tainted ways though. Alas!

That aside, I would give this a solid 6 or 7 out of 10, and would definitely recommend a viewing if you’re a fan of the Heads that Talk, or Mr Byrne, or Eno, or all three. Well worth your time.

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