As one could probably guess from my tender age of thirty five years, I listen to lots of 80’s music. Not only did I grow up in it, the music was energetic and often thoughtful (without being too depressing). But the thing I remember most about the music on a whole is the brilliant videos behind them. David Byrne of Talking Heads was the head (literally) of one of my favorites, Burning Down the House. A great musician and pop legend, David Byrne is back to entertain us in Ride, Rise, Roar.
David Byrne was born in Scotland in the spring of 1952. He knew how to play the guitar, accordion, as well as the violin before he even entered high school. David went through a couple of minor bands before landing his first major gig with the Talking Heads in 1975. The band went on to do great things and several of their albums went gold with sales well over 500,000 copies. Unfortunately, the group broke up in 1991 after creative differences and David Byrne went on to a solo career.
After a few releases, in the year 2008 with Brian Eno, a previous collaborator on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and other Talking Heads records (as well records with U2, Depeche Mode, and Paul Simon), put together an album called Everything that Happens Will Happen Today. In celebration of the album, Byrne decided to go on tour and after several stops in August of 2009, decided to put together a documentary/concert film.
Ride, Rise, Roar is not your typical concert film. Sure, it has music from Byrne’s solo career as well as his stint from Talking Heads. However, there is an unique element to the show (besides the the aggressive use of the color white): three dancers. These three dancers, Lily Baldwin, Natalie Kuhn, and Steven Reker move around the stage to choreographed steps put together by some of the best in the business. As a result, we get a strange but beautiful harmony that seems to succeed on every level.
As mentioned, Byrne performs some brilliant songs. Favorites like Once in a Lifetime, Road to Nowhere,, and Burning Down the House (complete with all people on stage wearing white tutus) are along other whimsical songs such as I Feel My Stuff and I Zimbra. In between the songs, we get snippets of conceptualizing, practicing and planning as they talk to the choreographers such as robbinschild(Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs), band members, and background vocalists.
The film is fascinating, but does exhibit a couple of small flaws (besides the little Obama campaign button near the end, remember kids: Music and politics do not mix, no matter what Rolling Stone tells you). First, it is too short. Only fourteen songs are on display here, and the tour had a lot more to choose from including Help Me Somebody and Wanted for Life. The other part is presentation. Between every song, we would get 2-3 minutes of talking about the experience. I am a firm believer in the letting the music speak for itself and not listen to somebody tell me how to feel about it. Breaks should be better spaced out, allowing the audience to enjoy the music.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080i resolution. The video is pretty decent for a blu-ray and the dancer’s movements are nothing short of awesome. If a viewer likes whites, they will probably fall over dead from overkill as they are blinded at every opportunity. Despite that fact, color is good here and beads of sweat are present showing detailed everything is. I still wish that Eagle Rock would make the jump to 1080p, but there is nothing really wrong of note here to complain about.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English DTS-HD track (5.1 Dolby Digital and PCM 2.0 tracks also included). Sound is amazing. I can’t say that word enough with the audio presentation. Highs aren’t absolutely ridiculous (which does happen in concerts from time to time) and lows are never to the point of a whisper. The surrounds get used quite a bit whether it is instruments from the band or backup singers. David Byrne sounds fantastic, it is hard to believe he is in his 50’s. Subtitles are included for English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
An interesting note about David Byrne, he is certainly for the customer. His last album was a self-release and he has went on record to say that music is about a sense of community and not the shattered plastic case CDs come in making a reference to record execs who sue their own customers and monopolize the music rather than the artists. Ride, Rise, Roar is a great concert film of an artist who decided to be daring and as a result put together great music and well-blended choreography in a most pleasant surprise.
The audio and video are also excellent on this disc, but the lack of extras are disappointing. The disc could have benefited from a concert only setting or just some extra songs on the short setlist. Despite this fact, I still give this one a solid recommendation, especially for those who enjoy the Talking Heads or 80’s music in general. David Byrne is a fun study and artists who enjoy their fans as much as he does deserve to be supported.
Once in a Lifetime
Life Is Long
Road To Nowhere
One Fine Day
The Great Curve
My Big Nurse
Burning Down The House
Houses In Motion
Life During Wartime
I Feel My Stuff
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today