The moment Charlie Otto sauntered onto the Vic stage, politely asking you to listen to a tape he wanted to play, you were magically looped back to 1984. Not Orwell’s 1984, but David Byrne’s where big suits, spandex clad fly girls, and lamps are perfectly acceptable dance partners for the evening if the mood strikes.
This Must Be The Band is one of the only Talking Heads cover bands in Chicago. More importantly they also are the most adept at conveying an accurate representation of the actual band members down to their mannerisms. Charlie Otto is to David Byrne as Day-Lewis is to President Lincoln. He simply owns the characters likeness so much that one can almost forget who is onstage until, out of costume, Otto reminds taking a few requests once the performance portion of the evening is complete.
Byrne (Charlie Otto) opens wearing white shoes with the familiar drum cadence of “Psycho Killer” and is alone onstage with his acoustic and boom box. As the gunfire puts him into a spastic whirl stumbling like the last scenes of “Scarface” he is joined by the core members of the band in each of the first four songs. With each successive song, Byrne is cumulatively joined onstage by Tina Weymouth (Jamie Jay) for “Heaven” (with Lynn Mabry (Tawny Newsome) providing harmony vocals from backstage, second by Chris Frantz (Alan Maniacek) for “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel”, and third by Jerry Harrison (Jim Dinou) for “Found a Job”. Performance equipment is gradually wheeled out and wired up to the bare stage between and throughout the performances, as Talking Heads continue to be augmented by several additional musicians, most of whom had extensive experience in funk: back-up singers Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt (Kasey Foster), keyboardist Bernie Worrell (again played by Dinou), and percussionist Steve Scales (Pat Sweeney). The first song to feature the entire lineup is “Burning Down the House“. The energy when the first lyrics burst onto the full fervor crowd is palpable. Lighting is key and TMBTB nailed it on one of the most important tracks. Certainly the song built to a crescendo perfectly and the crowd responded by singing the chorus throughout. The audience also held a fixation upon a singular white balloon as they toyed with it which fit the evening’s jovial atmosphere. Like Byrne it flitted about on a whim seemingly unable to find a comfortable resting place. Otto truly captures Byrne’s idea that music should be experienced and not just listened to and TMBTB’s devoted fan admiration can be viewed as a sign they represented to the highest level of flattery.
Byrne leaves the stage at one point, to allow the Weymouth–Frantz-led side-band the Tom Tom Club to perform their song “Genius of Love“. There was much funky love laid down by Jamie Jay and Alan Maniacek, and the dressed to impress Wedding Singer themed crowd let loose their inner 80s in a spectacle not soon to be topped.
Without a cast and crew equally dedicated to representing the others involved the project would fall flat and not have as great an impact. Many can sing and act like Byrne, but few groups are lucky enough to interact with a full band while blocking the stage movement in perfect choreography. Every run in place, arm condor swing, and crawl on the floor with a microphone move are executed without a forced feel. One thing I read Byrne wanted to achieve by giving a full view of everything happening on the stage was to ensure that interactions between the performers would not be lost with choppy camera shots. TMBTB is not mimicking the movement onstage, they become it and live it live through the audience.
True to the DVD version TMBTB played three tracks “Big Business”, “I Zimbra”, “Cities” before inviting the stage crew back onstage to take applause and join them for a song and a few requests. The umpteenth installment of their annual gig recreating “Stop Making Sense” sold out before the doors opened ensuring TMBTB has “Found A Job” at least for one evening each year. Otto’s side project Savvy is scheduled to play Martyr’s 11/30 along with Dozens and Magic Box.