FLASHBACK: Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’

TALKING HEADS are not only just that genre re-defining New Wave band of the 70s and 80s, but TALKING HEADS also happen to be the holders of Stop Making Sense, which is probably the greatest concert DVD to currently be in existence. Think I’m being mighty audacious? well hold up, and let me explain.

Think of all those traditions of the ‘Concert Film’. Think the over-longed audience pans, the blinding stage lights, the cock-straddling guitar solos, schizophrenic camera-cuts and the ferocious squeals from an audience that lives purely to scream in audiences. OK got it? well none of that appears in 1984s Stop Making Sense. Halfway through watching this DVD I sat back and notices that the stage is barely lit, everyone on it is wearing grey and yet I am totally captivated.

It is undeniable that this is not just your regular magical concert, but it doesn’t even take you half way to realise this. For starters the show opens on a close-up of Byrne‘s feat and then he performs the first track solo with a only a boombox pumping out a backing track for him to bring the guitar and his vocal.

From here the rest of the band is introduced one at a time, song by song. As the stage gets fuller and fuller we are accompanied by the the more eclectic sounds of the band. This is a band that want to make you dance and their inspirations are often African beats, and world music, sourcing the kind of sounds that have been making groups of people dance for centuries.

Beyond TALKING HEADS avant-garde-pop, art-school roots they are still a rock band with all intention to make loud music that will excite and, well be loud. So while they may have met in art school, they also grew as a punk band playing dingy nightclubs with shit sound in United State’s East Coast. And never does their appear to be a more open embraces than these worlds they straddle then when the sixth track pops around and it is an ecstatic, rambunctious, total ‘fuck you world’ fueled edition of ‘Burning Down The House’.

If anyone has followed David Byrne’s post-HEADS career one thing you make have taken notice of is his total embrace of the visual. And one thing that Byrne believes is that going to see a concert is a show, it is a visual experience and that you can build and influence tone and experience with visuals just as much as the songs. In the case of Stop Making Sense we often times we see stage hands walking around with spotlights, shining them on people and objects creating creepy/cool shadows on the wall. This is also continued with some gorgeous video projections on the stage, and some absolutely gleeful dancing by a few sexy back-up singers and Byrne himself. My lord does that man enjoy a good dance. Those hips do not lie.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention the suit. THAT SUIT. How, I wonder, could we make watching David Byrne dancing more fun? Well definitely throw a giant suit on the man and watch his tiny head and elastic legs go for the ride of their lives.

At its core this is a Film that brilliantly encapsulates this band; you get their whit, their tone and their dedication to avoid all the bombastic excess of the big bands of their time. This is a shows and its a hell of a watch, and what better band is there to spend 90 minutes with than the joyful TALKING HEADS.

Now, as final note, one would be hard pressed to find a more delightful 5 minutes of Stop Making Sense than with the performance of ‘This Must Be The Place’. Enjoy, but I would suggest against the light-as-dance-partner bit, while it may look easy, one accidental drop and you potentially have flames.

Words by Luke Letourneau