Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009

Stop Making Sense

Classic Concert Film on Blu-ray

By David Luhrssen
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First comes a white shoe, followed by an off white suit leg. Soon enough, David Byrne becomes fully visible for the opening number of Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads‚ 1984 concert film (out now on Blu-ray). Accompanying himself with acoustic guitar and beatbox, eyes bulging and legs bugging, Byrne performs “Psycho Killer” with the haunted look of a man who fears the aliens will abduct him once again. Bassist Tina Weymouth slips in to help with “Heaven,” a dreamy, sad song that would not have been out of place in a David Lynch film.

Before they can finish, a drum rise has been wheeled out by roadies, allowing Chris Frantz to join them on the exuberant “Thank You for Sending me an Angel.” Guitarist Jerry Harrison arrives just in time for the twitchy “Found a Job.” And next thing you know, a large cast bounds onto the stage—percussion, keyboards, even a pair of fly girl singers. Expanding like a giant accordion from the band’s frontman into a big band, the Talking Heads stopped being a compact rock combo and transformed themselves into a funk revue.

Byrne staged the concert under the direction of filmmaker Jonathan Demme for this acclaimed film. StopMaking Sense became the marker of the Talking Heads‚ arrival as the most acclaimed ’80s art rock band, the most popular act to rise from New York’s punk rock scene (even if their ties to punk were more coincidental that concrete). Nowadays, the sweaty, loosely choreographed exertion by the band and their guests resembles an aerobic dance line, but at the time it seemed to foretell the future of music, reuniting head and body (and maybe soul) under an intelligent funk groove.

The “greatest concert movie ever,” as Rolling Stone called it? Well, that’s a tall claim with many challengers. Stop Making Sense is an exciting showcase for one of the era’s signature bands, a well-conceived collaboration of sound and vision. The Blu-ray includes songs excluded from the movie, interviews and other bonus material.

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