David Byrne is a Genius

The headline is hardly news. It’s just a reminder that millions of us “discovered” him back in the 70s when the Talking Heads first emerged. And we remain in awe for the almost 30 years since the Talking Heads disbanded, so to speak.

I never saw the Heads live I am sorry to say. I was a DJ in the 80s at an album rock station in NJ so the Talking Heads music of that era was frequently in heavy rotation, and all the Talking heads catalogue was always part of the Lonny rotation (we used to select our own music, a novel idea!).

But I am pained that I never saw the Talking Heads live, and never will unless pigs fly and the band re-forms.

But no matter, since I’ve seen David Byrne on tour many times in the 90s, 00s, in the last decade and most recently in 2018. Every tour is different and special. His genius is that he continues to evolve and his new music combines well with classic Heads songs in concerts.  

His latest tour ended by COVID was behind his latest creation, American Utopia. Mind-blowing is an understatement. I was fortunate to see the first performance of American Utopia at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ on Saturday March 3, 2018. It was a special musical weekend which started with a Bob Weir/Phil Lesh concert at Radio City (A Dead, Heads Weekend). Since it was the first performance in the American Utopia tour, Byrne began the show by apologizing for any rough parts (there were none) and commented that they had been rehearsing in Trenton prior to the performance. We had no idea what the tour would be like, what the concept might be other than there would some sprinkling of new American Utopia songs.

What fans now know is that the American Utopia concept is that Byrne and the troupe perform untethered with no stationary instruments, and that they dress alike in grey suits and wear no shoes. And the performance and the music were GREAT. And I saw it again live in the summer of 2018. And then Byrne brought the concept to Broadway where it was running until COVID changed all our lives.  

But American Utopia lives today in a film by Spike Lee which captures the performance faithfully along with some enhancements. Byrne’s films, Talking Heads Stop Making Sense and now American Utopia are among the best rock films of all time. American Utopia is being shown by HBO, alone making an HBO subscription worth it.

David Byrne is part of my “class of 1952”, making us both 68. He inspires me and his music, old and new, is brilliant. On tour he is not just “playing the hits” as most classic artists do. Nothing against doing so, and he surely sprinkles old Heads classics in his shows. But every tour is fresh and brilliant.

American Utopia is scheduled to return to Broadway on September 17, 2021.  Byrne got some wild, wild life. And I expect a new concept will be coming in years to come as well. Same as it ever was.

More Strumings


  1. Hey Lonny,

    Agreed! Super genius.

    Not sure if you know he suffers from Asperger’s disease. Might help explain his genius.

    The only time I saw him was the Rei Momo tour at the Tower Theater in 1980. Couldn’t find a youtube video to share but this comes close to his Ricky Ricardo Babaloo impression that I swear was the inspiration.

    And you must know about his building instrument.

    Anyway, hope you’re safe and doing well.

    – Steve

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