The founder and lead vocalist of Talking Heads, who first appeared at the stadium on August 21, 1982, and again almost exactly a year later on the Stop Making Sense tour, performed new music from “American Utopia,” his eleventh solo album, as well as classic Talking Heads songs like “I Zimbra” and “Burning Down The House.”
Byrne showcased his new rhythmic 11-member band and its elaborate choreography. The stage was minimalist, illustrating the artists’ “poetry in motion,” symbolic of Byrne's 2012 Love This Giant tour featuring St. Vincent.
“David Byrne has a great energy, engaging the audience in a way to make you feel like a participant in their excitement to perform,” said Forest Hills fan Matthew Ferraro. “It was as much a musical performance as it was theater.”
In 1983, Byrne’s distinguishable characteristics were his black hair, unique dance moves, and his oversized white suit. On the Stop Making Sense tour he made a solo entrance with a boom box to perform “Psycho Killer.” With each subsequent number, more musicians joined him on stage.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Byrne's Saturday night show opened with Byrne alone on stage in a chair holding a human brain for the song “Here.” His backup singers emerged midway from a metal ball curtain.
“The music is completely enhanced by the stage design and the choreography and the band organization,” said Forest Hills resident Douglas Crellin. “David Byrne sitting at a table holding a brain was one of the most unique opening numbers I have ever experienced. It was simple but stunning.”
For the second number, "Lazy," additional musicians appeared in clusters and the rhythmic moves intensified. Gray suits and bare feet complemented the minimalist experience. Byrne often stepped back from the center so the focus was on the talents of his band.
“Everything you hear coming off this stage is being played by these incredible musicians,” he told the audience at one point.
Crellin distinctly recalls when “Talking Heads: 77” was released.
“I was a pre-teen in Greenwich Village consumed by David Bowie and similar artists on the edge experimenting with sounds and production, and along comes the Talking Heads,” he said. “I wore grooves into that album, and when I could save up money, I played their cassette non-stop on my walkman until I knew every word.
“I saw the premiere of 'Stop Making Sense' at the old 8th Street Playhouse, thinking this is the most visually amazing show, as they slowly built the set and band from a blank slate to a roaring concert set,” he added. “I could have closed my eyes at the stadium, and I was again riding the M13 to school.”
“As soon as you saw David Byrne mirror his signature moves from the video, you knew he was launching into ‘Once in a Lifetime’ before you recognized the first notes,” said Long Island resident Peter Arato. “’This Must be the Place,’ always a favorite, lacked Byrnes’ dancing partner from when he played here 35 years ago - a standing lamp - but he made up for it with a subtle, effortless groove.”
Arato, who was raised around the corner from Forest Hills Stadium, also saw a correlation between the minimalist approach and previous Byrne shows.
“It was similar to the Stop Making Sense tour, but with no equipment on stage, freeing the band to roam wherever the music took them, adding another dimension,” he said.
Linda Fisher of Forest Hills has never forgotten “True Stories,” a 1986 film directed by and starring Byrne.
“I often think to myself, ‘This is not my beautiful house,’ and I especially liked when the crowd cried ‘My God, what have I done?'” she said. “‘Every Day is a Miracle’ is another example of his timeless poetic sensibility.”
Fan Judy Griffin is also running for a state Assembly seat, and she said she appreciates Byrne's calls for people to get involved.
“I appreciated David Byrnes's focus on civic engagement, as in the words ‘right now we have the right to vote, use it before you lose it,’” she said. “Talking Heads was a huge part of my college experience and was played at every party and bar.”