David Byrne and St. Vincent have been touring their collaborative 2012 LP Love This Giant for close to a year now, so it stands to reason the duo has developed both a super-tight live show and a compelling personal rapport. Saturday night, they invaded Port Chester, New York’s historic Capitol Theater with a 10-piece, mostly brass band, placing their new joint material alongside some of the biggest hits from their own respective careers. And while the resulting slick, glittery affair was certainly worth watching, there’s still a question of who’s running the show, exactly: Is the Talking Heads great lending his aura to a less seasoned songwriter, or is Clark adding a youthful vibrancy to songs often hailed as classics long before she was born?
As with any collaboration, particularly one between a seasoned male icon and a younger female artist, there’s a certain mystery and allure to the chemistry here. Some of Saturday’s most electrifying moments came when Clark and Byrne broke from their goofy, overly precious choreography to more naturally interact with one another, whether that involved karate-chopping a theremin during “Northern Lights” or just shredding face-to-face. Talking Heads’ iconic “This Must Be the Place,” which showed off Byrne’s undeniable charisma and warm, soaring voice, was a definite highlight; “Strange Overtones,” off his 2008 team-up with Brian Eno, is another glimmering example of the tender and sophisticated songwriting that has formed the backbone of his career.
That’s not to say Clark didn’t add her fair share of memorable moments. Just as Byrne looks like he was born wearing a headset mic and doing a swaying little dance, she makes her way around an electric guitar as though acting purely on animal instinct. St. Vincent songs like “Cheerleader” and “Cruel,” both off 2011’s Strange Mercy, benefit enormously from the new arrangements, with the brass arrangements adding a depth missing on record, and a warmth that allows Clark’s clear-as-a-bell vocals to shine. The pair have clearly formed the kind of relationship rhapsodized in countless Woody Allen films: the older, wiser, and certainly more worshipped father figure shining a spotlight on a young protégée. It’s very clear how Clark won the role, her virtuosic guitar playing and gorgeous vocals inspiring chills in even the fans clearly there just to hear Byrne sing “Burning Down the House.” It’s all not quite on the level of Manhattan yet, but they’re getting there.