Ewan Gleadow

Review: Talking Heads-Stop Making Sense 35th anniversary

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Palm Pictures – © 1984

Up until a few days ago, I lived a very sheltered musical life. Switching religiously between Pulp, Elvis Costello, Elton John and Arctic Monkeys, I didn’t offer myself much variety in sound. Considering half of the listed attractions are from Sheffield, it was time to leap the pond to America and see what they had to offer. If only I’d learnt of the Talking Heads sooner, because, to put it lightly, they have reshaped the style of music I listen to.

Lead singer David Byrne gives off an exuberant first impression. His energetic performance is one of the prominent reasons as to why exactly Stop Making Sense is one of the greatest musical performances of all time. Performances that expand on the studio recordings are always great to hear, but Talking Heads takes it a step further and offers completely unique and different spins on some of their finest works.

At the helm of this is director Jonathan Demme, the man who has brought us superb films like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. Here his knowledge of the camera makes for an interesting mix with the variety of songs the band delivers. Some scenes feel like a film, others feel like a naturally flowing live performance, the only difference offered up by Stop Making Sense is it cuts out the awkward time in between musicians changing their instruments. There are some beautiful shots throughout that blend the bands chemistry and charisma with set design, fog machines and simple light tricks that bring a whole new layer to the concert.

One by one we’re introduced to the band members, who adorn the stage one at a time, one song after the other. Eventually the band, and the set, is complete, with some of the finest musical performances to have ever been given on camera. Taking excerpts from several different performances, it gives the audience at home the finest showcase available, combining the best performances of the best songs the band have to offer.

Personally, I’ve never felt so much energy given off by one team of musicians. Dancing around the stage, sometimes running on the spot or into the background, playing with the props and just having a great time. Talking Heads as a band proved themselves as one of the most inventive, creative and endearing groups to ever form, and it’s Stop Making Sense that has convinced me of such. Performance art isn’t something I’ve got much experience with, but this live concert is by far the closest I’ve ever come to realising how great such a sub-genre of art can be.

A perfect way to introduce yourself to the talent of the Talking Heads band, or at least that’s what its use for me was. It’s hard not to tap along to some of the songs throughout this immaculate set that dissects all the tropes you’ve come to expect of hit 80s music. A perfect concert for hardened fans and newcomers too, a set that displays the finest music Talking Heads had to offer, and it just so happens they’ve got a roster of timeless classics to go through.