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David Byrne and St. Vincent thrill under thunderous skies

By Andrea Flewelling on June 24, 2013

It was an exceedingly humid night in Ottawa as hundreds gathered in Confederation Park to see David Byrne & St. Vincent at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday.

Initially conceived for a one-night performance at a SoHo bookstore, the multi-generational collaboration between David Byrne (most notably of the Talking Heads) and Annie Clark (performing under the moniker St. Vincent) was so successful that it resulted in an album, Love This Giant (released last fall), and the ensuing tour which brought them to the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday night. The album features energetic male-female vocals, with songs alternatively highlighting the vocal stylings of Byrne and St. Vincent, accompanied by a full brass band.

On Sunday night, the silver-haired Byrne was a striking vision in black and white sporting a white dinner jacket. St. Vincent was, as always, an ethereal beauty – her newly platinum blond hair and pale skin complimented beautifully by a midnight blue A-line dress. Accompanied by a full brass band and artistic lighting design, the stage production was something to behold.

Playing songs from their album Love This Giant (kicking off the show with the first two tracks from that album, Who and Weekend in the Dust) as well as from their respective repertoires, Byrne & St. Vincent did not disappoint. The crowd went wild as Byrne performed a selection of Talking Heads classics sprinkled throughout the night (including Wild Wild Night and Burning down the House). However, St. Vincent’s otherworldly vocals and impressive electric guitar skills were equally extraordinary and she comfortably held her own against “the specter, the legend, David Byrne” (her words!).

Typical Ottawa summer weather attempted to derail the show beginning with a few sprinkles of rain (coincidentally as St. Vincent crooned “there’s a funny lightning; threatening with striking; but it moves too quick for a picture …” from Lightning).  The sprinkles of rain were unfortunately merely a precursor to a thunderstorm which threatened to steal the show.  Lightning lit up the humid night sky and the accompanying torrential downpour drenched concert goers. While the electrical storm did cause a rain delay of about 20 minutes, the show picked up where it left off concluding with a crowd pleasing rendition of Burning Down the House. Some audience members chose to call it a night at the first sign of rain but the remaining crowd danced and partied taking the weather in stride.

Byrne & St. Vincent and their accompanying full brass band entertained concert goers for more than two hours, playing over 20 songs, each one expertly and energetically performed. Each song featured inventive choreography which incorporated both the members of the brass band and the artists (and obviously featured Byrne’s signature dance moves). All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable summer night of music at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival!