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October 21, 1978 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-10-21

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, October 21, 1978-P~age 5

Mendelssohn gives fans Heads

BY MARK DIGHTON
One of the most original and oddly
appealing rock bands to see Ann Arbor
this fall came to Lydia Mendelssohn
Theatre Thursday night. It was Talking
Heads, one of the many groups to
emerge from New York's New Wave
scene in the last few years.
A The choice of Lydia Mendelssohn
usually reserved for things like
dramatic presentations and addresses
by President Fleming, was perfect.
From the outset, the atmosphere
established that this wasn't going to be
a regular_ rock concert, but something
very different and very special.
TALKING* HEADS' refusal to com-
promise their music for the sake of
popularity was evident in everything
they did - from their choice of an
opening number ("The Big Country,"
an overly long and not particularly
memorable song) to their clothing. Ex-
cept for drummer Chris Frantz, who
was wearing a light blue sport shirt,
white pants, and sneakers, all were
dressed in black or dark blue.
David Byrne, the singer, songwriter,
and lead guitarist of the group, is the
central figure on stage. Seemingly
neurotic and convulsive, at times he
looks like he could have given Jack
Iicholson some serious competition for
the lead in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest.
Byrne's interminable staring was
somewhat uncomfortable at times, but
it's reassuring to know that he's not
trying to fit himself to an image. Unlike
the obviously conscious obsession
image that Elvis Costello creates, Byr-
ne's style seems very unassuming and
natural - he seems genuinely
possessed by his music.
JERRY HARRISON, keyboardist
and second guitarist of the band, ap-
peared as detached as Byrne, but in a
different way. Whereas Byrne seemed
to be off in another world and not really
aware of what was happening in the
theater, Harrison was completely self-
absorbed and very obviously involved
in what he was playing.
Bassist Tina Weymouth is the most
appealing personality in the
group ... and the most popular, as in-
termittent shouts of approval from the
audience proved. She was not as distant
as Byrne or Harrison, but just as un-
derstated. Her attention remained on
'yrne the whole evening, as if she was
never quite suire what he was going to
do next.
WeymoTh' snall stature, impish'
face, and shy grin are the most char-
ming features of the band, but she
smiled only occasionally. She
epitomized the seriousness this band
places on their music. There was little
expression of emotion and absolutely no
"letting go." It clearly wasn't meant to
be just rock 'n' roll - it was art.
CHRIS FRANTZ, the drummer, was
the anomaly in the group. Besides his

tracking and studio effects can provide.
Some songs from the second album,
especially "Take Me to the River,"
sounded rather colorless next to their
studio counterparts. But then, Brian
Eno wasn't producing their live show.
At the same time, their live ren-
ditions were far from being pale
imitations of studio tracks. Byrne's
vocal quirks, the extended instrumen-
tal sections, and radically different
solos managed to make each song
sound at least somewhat different from
the original. Many times the new ad-
ditions made any missing components
unnoticeable.
I CAME AWAY from the show with
mixed reactions. Talking Heads had
performed impeccably, but I felt a little
confused by the detachment they
displayed. Although Byrne mentioned
twice early in the set that we could dan-
ce if we wanted to, no one was even
moved to stand up until the finale,
"Psycho Killer," one of the most
popular songs from their first album.
I noticed for the first time that their
trend away from immediately ac-
cessible melodies, toward greater
complexity and more experimentation,
is becoming more pronounced. A new
song, as yet unrecorded, called "Elec-
tricity," was the most intellectually en-
thralling number of the evening - ex-
tremely complex and varied t- but it
was also the least physically exciting.
Byrne doesn't seem to realize that in
concert they are not very danceable.
Talking Heads' restraint is largely
responsible for the incredible amount of
tension and power they create, but they
never allow for any release of that
compounding pressure.
That's not to imply that they should,
for their deft manipulation of the fric-
tion within their songs creates one of
the most fascinating sounds around, but
it can leave your average fan, out
looking for something to really rock 'n'
roll to, a bit bewildered.

Daily Photo by CYRENA CHANG
A Talking Head

clothing, he had the handsome, well-
scrubbed, ever-smiling appearance
that American college students strive
for.
Talking Heads is just as complex
musically as they are visually. Each
part of each song is so perfect that it
sounds as if the whole song was born
completely composed and arranged.
The group then had to figure out how to
create those sounds with their in-
struments. byrne's guitar style, which
was more of an attempt to create effec-
ts than play melodies, was the strongest
indication of this.
Each group member took more liber-
ty in exploring their abilities on stage
than they do on their records. The only
one I have any reservations about is
Chris Frantz. After the interwoven
polyrhythms of their latest LP, More
Songs About Buildings and Food, he
seems to have returned to the one-
dimensional style of their first album,
Talking Heads: 77.
TINA JUST about makes up for any
weaknesses in the band, however.
Although she, sometimes looks like
she's going to be swallowed up by her
bass, her playing has progressed as
much from More Songs as that album
did from its predecessor, which
represents quite an amazing im-
provement. Not only are her bass lines.
gaining in creativity and technique, but
she seems to have developed an ex-
traordinary ability to temper the sound
of her instrument manually to create a
wide variety of sounds.
Byrne is also expert at creating
moods with his guitar. Unfortunately,
his few attempts to break into standard
guitar solos were irrelevant and un-
directed failures. Their predictability
grated with the experimental
framework of the songs.
Byrne's vocals were looser and far
more interesting than they are on either
album. His characteristic shouts and
mumblings during instrumental breaks
were classic Byrne.
JERRY HARRISON, usually known
for his keyboard playing, got an
unusual chance to show off his abilities
as a guitarist. A fine rhythm player, his
presence on keyboards was never-
theless sorely missed. The organ and

synthesizer were said to be malfun-
ctioning, however, hence his reliance
on the guitar to fill in some of the in-
tegral keyboard riffs.
Many tunes, unfortunately, suffered
from the missing depth that multiple

MILOS FOREMAN 1975
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
JACK NICHOLSON, electrifying as the free-spirtied R.P. McMurphy wages
psychological warfare against a mental hospital nurse (LOUISE FLETCHER),
who is fighting to keep sadistic control over the inmates. Based on Ken
Kesey's celebrated novel, this film won five major Academy Awards including
Best Picture. "A powerful, smashingly effective movie."-Pauline Kael.
SUN: MORNING GLORY & THE APARTMENT

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ANGELL HALL AUD. A
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SH S T)PSU f) CO NQER
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Tonight at 8 pm.
W e d . S a t.,(O ct. 18 -2 1, 8 I'M
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1'I )k'55 i( ) h I I YfIc t IPI PUgril l
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Tickets at the P.T.P. Box Office in
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and through all Hudson's Stores

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