“There’s no room for emptiness, on a never empty street”…

David Byrne and St Vincent – Symphony Hall Birmingham

So, it felt like I have had to wait forever between gigs. Last time out really was the trip to Hardrock calling in June, so this much anticipated jaunt to Birmingham didn’t come a day too soon. In glorious sunshine, the trip down was pretty uneventful, until I reached the outskirts of the city that is.

It was then that the much talked about tunnel closures in Birmingham city centre began to kick in. Long tail backs and very slow moving traffic prompted a detour from my route. Always exciting when trying to follow the woeful iphone map ap. Not!

I must have done a full circuit of the city before getting close to the hotel and even then it was more luck than judgement! Upon arrival, I just wanted a shower, however the refurb of the hotel meant that the water was off until around 7pm and it seemed easier to dump my stuff and check out the venue.

That was a twofold mission which included trying to get Mr Byrne to sign his page in my “It is as it is” book. There was already a few diehards outside the back of the venue – they had been there a whilst and confirmed Byrne was inside, but so far had not fulfilled a promise to come out to sign.

I chanced my arm round the front of the venue and was pleasantly surprised to see how open the whole thing was. It didn’t take long to figure out where the production team was and after a quick chat with a girl at the door, my book was whisked inside and came back duly signed by the man himself.


Sadly, I didn’t get to meet him, but one out two isn’t bad. The diehards were still waiting when I wandered back around and I did try to steer them towards the other end, but at that point, they wanted to stay put. So I wandered back to the hotel to dump the book and came back to kill time.

By the time my mate had arrived for a catch up, I had begun chatting to two lovely ladies from Manchester, who told me about their wonderful tour bus tales. I love meeting diehards and hearing their tales – different singer or band each time, but the sentiment is the same – love of the artist and the music – it was like talking to Finn Frenz.

This was my first visit to the Symphony Hall and I was struck by how grand it was inside. A world away from some of the venues I have visited on this Forty for Forty quest so far. My seat was side of stage and pretty high up, but it felt like it was a private box with no one in front or behind me.

It took a whilst for it to fill up and the patient audience was treated to the mood setting sounds of a rainforest storm before Byrne’s voice asked the audience not to over use cameras and ipads etc. Both he and St Vincent (Annie Clark) took to the stage to great applause – as you would expect for Byrne, there was lots of love in the room.

At this point, I have to say, wasn’t sure what to expect. I know of Byrne’s music but have never seen him live. I had heard little, if anything of St Vincent. I fully expected a David Byrne show. I didn’t expect an 8 piece brass band and St Vincent to not only play a full part in the night, but to shine like a beacon. (apologies to S.H.1.T / Different…)

Anyway, you will no doubt find real reviews of the show online, but it was clever, arty, full of surprises and a real treat to witness. Launching straight into a cracking track called “Who”, the pair were clearly at ease with each other and the chemistry they had between them was undeniable.

A mixture of new and old tunes were complimented by coordinated semi “dance” routines as the pair took turns in taking the lead on vocals. St Vincent dominated on electric guitar, whilst Byrne alternated with acoustic and electric.

I am not overly keen on brass bands – they tend to lend a sombre touch to proceedings, however in this setting it really worked. There was scant banter between crowd and artists, but the goings on up on the stage kept the polite audience enthralled.

However, it wasn’t until the encore that the audience got up on its feet and that helped the gig notch up a gear. “Burning down the house” proving to be the Talking Heads highlight of a very good night.  That was almost surpassed in the second encore when a couple in fancy dress (rabbit and a crocodile) were invited up on stage to dance for the final song “Road to Nowhere”.

One other cheeky member of the audience managed to sneak on stage too, but was grabbed by security after managing one lap with everyone else. It was a fitting end to the night and one that went far too fast.

I arrived a fan of David Byrne and left with a reinforced admiration of the man and his work. I also left a tad bit in love with St Vincent and totally captivated by both her beauty and talent. Typical man I hear you cry, but what can I say – I’m a sucker for hot guitar playing bottle blond girls !

After the show, I even bumped into a good Frenz! I normally only ever see her at Neil Finn / Crowded House shows, so it was such a lovely surprise and perfect ending to a great night. She had flown over to see both shows (London the night before).

So another memorable night on the Forty for Forty quest is ticked off the list. Next up is a local gig to see Justin Currie from Del Amitri and that will be young Ollie’s first gig outing this year. He is very excited and I will also be on a mission for Currie to sign his page in the “It is as it is” book too!

Anyway, I leave this ramble with a flavour of the night – audience recordings are brilliant – especially when something unexpected happens half way – good on the recorder for keeping going – this is “Optimist” from the CD “Love This Giant”


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