David Byrne walks onto the stage and does a solo "Psycho Killer." Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz join him for two more songs. The crew is busy, still setting up. Then, three more musicians and two back-up singers join the band. Everybody sings, plays, harmonizes, dances, and runs. They change instruments and clothes. Bryne appears in the Big Suit. The backdrop is often black, but sometimes it displays words, images, or children's drawings. The band cooks for 18 songs, the lyrics are clear, the house rocks. In this concert film, the Talking Heads hardly talk, don't stop, and always make sense.Written by
Before I saw Stop Making Sense I had never been particularly concerned with The Talking Heads, or lead-singer and solo-artist David Byrne. Indeed, I had always been a fan of certain songs, such as "Burning Down the House" and "Psycho Killer", but I had never actually spent time becoming acquainted with the band's music on the whole. However, Stop Making Sense was something I was desperate to view, due to the substantial amount of praise that had been garnered over the years since its release. Now it is safe to say that The Talking Heads rank among my favourite bands, thanks to this masterpiece of musical art.
Essentially, Stop Making Sense is a showcase of the band's collected works. Throughout the 90-minute running-time the concert simultaneously covers the back-catalogue of The Talking Heads, through fluid, non-stop vibrancy. From "Found a Job" and "Take Me to the River" the work is merely a sample of the group's ability to provide some of the most engaging live shows ever recorded. To say that the film is "original" would be an understatement, given that the title still rings true today. Stop Making Sense defines the band's abilities, attitudes, styles and motifs. The New Wave approach the film takes is stylistically engaging to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to draw your eyes away from the screen. Minimalist set-pieces move along with the mood of the music at such a rate that much of the picture feels like a kaleidoscope of blistering sound and trancelike imagery.
David Byrne is the key constituent; bestowing his stage presence, creativity and musical proficiency. His stage dynamics are let loose during Stop Making Sense. The infamously over-sized business suit donned by David Byrne is otherworldly, just like the viewing experience, which transports you into a deep-seated, vivacious trance. Yet it is the suit which distinguishes the work completely. The fact that a regular item of clothing can have the ability to make the wearer seem out-of-proportion and disfigured is both mystifying and captivating. Even more bizarre is that the suit seems to grow relatively larger as the concert progresses. Personal interpretation could be that the suit is an implicative metaphor for the irony of the business world or conformity; on the other hand it could just be about not making sense.
Academy award winning director Jonathan Demme does not just "get the gist of The Talking Heads". Instead he is able to comprehend the themes of the band's work from an unmistakably refined tone that he captures through his direction. The irregularity of the group may be hard for some viewers to swallow, but that can be expected from a group which make music of an acquired taste. As for the choreography, it seems there is none, since the musicians all behave in a volatile and limitless manner. The progressively shifted set-pieces convey the altered reality that you have become apart of, and are an extraordinary example of unbound craftsmanship. Stop Making Sense ultimately displays the band's antics from their perspective; this is due to the extended takes of the performers and the lack of audience shots (the fans can only be seen during wide shots or when the camera moves behind the performers). There are even moments where the viewer effectively becomes apart of the band. A prime example of this manoeuvre is when the camera swings behind drummer Chris Frantz and faces the audience during the rendition of "Thank You for Sending me an Angel."
Characteristically speaking it is hopeless trying to describe the feeling you receive while viewing Stop Making Sense. This is because when seen and heard the mind becomes so fixated with the audacious madness of the piece that every viewer will react differently. Personally, this is the concert which I would irrefutably name as the finest ever recorded, maybe you will too.
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