Wednesday 26th June 2002
The Ambassador Theatre
David Byrne plays the Ambassador in Dublin. My introduction to his music began many years ago. My brother was a big fan of Talking Heads (and subsequent solo productions), so I had endured this music through my "teen" years. I would have preferred to listen to my own records at the time, but familiarity bred an appreciation for them in the years to come.
This gig was initially just my brother and I, but Dr. J wanted in on the action too. In on the action he got. Whilst I was stuck on a bus in sunny traffic, he was sketching deals with the nasty men who buy tickets just to sell them on (touts - we hate you).
I arrived in Town, met Dr. J, had a slice of pizza in Eamon Dorans, then proceeded to the Ambassador on a criss-crossing scenic route involving the back alleys of Capel Street and the North Lotts.
We met my brother in a bar across the road from the Ambassador (he likes bars), chatted for five minute, then went to joined the twenty person queue for "doors open time". Turning up early worked in our favour and we achieved centre stage front row positions. The subsequent wait was nothing. We had the comfort of a metal security bar to keep the weight off our feet.
Support came on. They were called "Echo", and they had a JX3P. But we werent impressed. It was a female vocalist with programmed synth backing and a guitarist. The girl could sing quite excellently, and the programming got more likeable as their set went on, but the guitarist was dead space who should have been sent to pasture long ago. Furthermore, the vocals were performed with great "artistic zest". When you see the emotion and zest before you know the music, it can sometimes counter the effect in a slightly negative way. This was one of those times. So they played, there was some good trumpet playing, some even worse guitar playing (for a while we werent even sure he actually played the guitar) and they said good night and left.
Then David Byrne came on. He was dressed in matching brown nylon pants and shirt with some nice black and white shoes. His hair was grey, and he looked just like David Byrne. His band consisted of Drums (playing very tight), Percussion (playing very tight), and Bass (playing very tight). David played a range of acoustic and electric guitars, and the band were (have you guessed?) very tight. They were also happy, which really helps. And they wore matching shirts.
There was banter. David started by explaining the dynamics of the evenings set quite nervously, and we all chuckled and laughed. Then he kicked off with "nothing But Flowers" (just check the Setlists Section to see what was actually played). The sound was good (it actually got better as the set progressed) and the band played an excellent percussive heavy sound with Mr. Byrnes voice floating on top.
We had forgotten about the extra mics on stage by the time he brought out his string section. Part two of his set began, mostly concentrating on songs that I didnt know as well as the older tracks. But the music was excellent, and I had no problem enjoying the exceptional spectacle that was spread before me (my view was an outstanding close-up uninterrupted panorama - there were no front of stage monitors used during the gig). He played and played, swapped guitars for softer guitars, joked and smiled, danced strangely, and stood to the side once or twice to enjoy the flawless sound of the strings. There was also some spontaneous long-duration applause. During this prolonged cheering, the band stood and smiled with the happiness that only unexpected appreciated praise can induce. So the set played through, finishing with "Life During Wartime"
Encore. He came back and played some more. We were all happy again, although my brother was getting some abuse from a bunch of obnoxious women behind him. They failed to understand that the front row had limited capacity, and he wasnt in a position to squeeze them in. I squeezed a (skinny) girl in to my left, although she was far too polite and friendly about the whole thing. Her friendliness exposed itself best when she flashed Mr. Byrne her happy naked breasts during his final bows. That shows what a loving giving audience it really was.
He played a final encore of Road to Nowhere. There was a lot of cheering. The band seemed truly happy at the reception theyd been given. I was certainly happy at the gig that had been played, and felt gleeful and at home in the excellent venue that the Ambassador Theatre has become (Mercury Rev, Pulp).
House lights up, earplugs out, and let the set list begging begin. It was textbook on my part. Stretching out and playing the usual game, I was handed Davids Byrnes personal set list for the evening. Amazingly, my brother and Dr. J also got set lists, making an unprecedented "three for three" in the set list game. I then swapped my set list with my brothers, since he was the better fan and deserved the most important list. I think my new one belonged to the bassist.
Then Dr. J had his coat pinched. Panic Panic Panic, during which time I ran into my other friend "Misty" out in the Lobby. Eventually somebody wandered out with his coat, but the whole thing was suspicious, smelling heavily of maliciousness. During the "coat chess" I spied the Percussionist upstairs and strolled over to congratulate him on the excellent work.
We went outside and stood chatting with Misty and her friend. It occurred to my brother that we might as well just wait around for the band to exit. We waited around, ran into the promoter of the Television Gig, watched the band slowly file out, and went home with three signed set lists and a handshake each.