Stop Making Sense (Live) [Special New Edition]
On YouTube, there’s a 34-minute video of Talking Heads playing at The Kitchen, a cutting-edge New York venue, as a trio in 1976, before Jerry Harrison joined the band. It’s a very tentative performance, awkward and full of uneasiness, and it’s almost impossible to imagine that only seven years later, they’d make one of the best, most dynamic concert films ever. Stop Making Sense, which was recorded during the Speaking in Tongues tour in Los Angeles in December 1983, begins with David Byrne singing “Psycho Killer” alone except for a beatbox. Then bassist Tina Weymouth joins for the second song “Heaven,” drummer Chris Frantz enters for the third, and Harrison arrives for the fourth. The quartet is augmented by five other musicians, most notably guitarist Alex Weir of The Brothers Johnson, and Parliament-Funkadelic wizard Bernie Worrell, the Thelonious Monk of the synthesizer. The film version of Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme, adds an additional layer of visual delight, thanks to delightful staging, especially Beverly Emmons’ dramatic lighting, Byrne’s comically oversized suit (inspired by Japanese Noh theater costumes), his pas de deux with a floor lamp during “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” and the unrestrained exuberance of percussionist Steve Scales. New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael called Byrne “a stupefying performer” and described the movie as “close to perfection.” A 2023 remastering for the film’s 40th anniversary brought the spectacle to a new generation and prompted the band to cheerily do press together in support of the project—a first since their acrimonious breakup three decades earlier. If you don’t have a DVD, Blu-ray, IMAX theater, or VHS tape at hand, the album is still a delight. It's a good overview of the band’s first five records, played with gusto and mostly true to the originals, though they take “Making Flippy Floppy” at a much faster tempo. There are digressions into Tom Tom Club’s hit “Genius of Love” and two solo Byrne songs, most notably the luminous “What a Day That Was” from his Catherine Wheel album. The record concludes with a version of “Crosseyed and Painless,” whose only flaw is that it eventually ends.