The Heads : Live reviews Print
The following reviews were taken from the Talking Heads mailing list.

Here is a poster of the Heads show in Fillmore by Neko Studios
 
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Hi - saw the heads at house of blues in new orleans this week. One of the best concerts I've seen in the last decade or so. I first saw the un-shrunken version of the band about twenty years ago in NYC and remember the energy that they had back then -- they definitly have it back now. The Heads version of Burning Down the House, which they did as their last number, was even more powerful than the 'talking' version (Housing down the Byrne).

It was a special treat to see the band at a small venue such as the house of blues.

> steve sachse
 
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The Heads played Deep Ellum club in Dallas, with approximately 500 in attendance. As the t-shirt vendor told me -- it was an older crowd since most of the band's promo- tional posters remained on the walls until the opening act (Star 69) was over.

I think Talking Heads' fans would be pleased with the new band's performance. Johnette Napolitano brought a lot of energy, handling this new material. In fact, I think Chris was really pleased. He seemed to smile a lot throughout the performance -- Johnette even mimicked some Byrne moves, including slapping the forehead -- it was as if she had watched SMS a lot.

As for particulars: The Heads played between 12 to 15 songs (including encore) in about a one hour-fifteen minute set. Opening song was "Memories Can't Wait." Then they launched into several new songs including "No Big Bang," "Only the Lonely," "No Talking Just Head,"Damage I've Done," "Punk Lolita," and "The King is Gone." I don't remember their playing "Don't Take my Kindness for Weakness," which surprised me since I think that is the first video release. After hearing Johnette do these new songs in concert -- and she did a great job -- I have a greater appreciation for the new album. IMHO I think the new album would have been even better if she had been the primary vocalist.

In fact, this past week's Dallas Morning News says, "Ms. Napolitano will tour as the Heads' lead vocalist and sing on the band's entire next album." And Jerry Harrison was quoted in the same article saying, "I don't think of this as a reunion tour at all. We're playing some old Talking Heads' songs because people want to hear them, but this is something different and unique -- it all stands on whether or not you like the new album."

And what "old" Talking Heads' songs did they do in Dallas? Other than the opening aforementioned "Memories," they also included "Take Me to the River" and "Warning Sign." They closed the show with "Psycho Killer." Then for the encore, they did "Burning Down the House" and "Life During Wartime." Jerry did most of the lead vocals on this last song. All Talking Heads' songs were very true to their original sound, and "Psycho Killer" seemed to have an extra intensity with a rapid extended flourish at the end. Tina did the French parts. On an unrelated bit of personal bias: I really hate the way she says "pedestal." I know, it's a freakin' free world. :)

My only complaint was this: I wish they had also included two or three Concrete Blonde songs since they also included Talking Heads songs. I think it would have made the set list even stronger, and I know the Dallas crowd would have appreciated it since Johnette has a strong following there.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. Footnotes: merchandise includes either a white or black t-shirt with the red and black "No Talking Just Head" on front and tour cities listed on the back. Cost was $15. A baseball cap was also available for the same price.

Hope all of you get a chance to see them when they come your way -- sorry, but I didn't see Sidney listed on the shirt.

> Phil Woolverton
 
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Here's the review of the Heads show Friday night by Thor Christensen, DMN's Pop Music Critic (in Sunday's paper)

STARTING TO MAKE THEIR OWN SENSE

Skipping memory lane improves this Heads trip

Maybe the choice wasn't intentional. But the Heads kicked off their show Friday night at Deep Ellum Live with "Memories Can't Wait" - a 17 year old song that cut to the chase of the biggest problem facing them today. "Try not to look disappointed," sang Johnette Napolitano, echoing David Byrne's lyrics. "It isn't what you hoped for, is it?"

Not hardly. What Talking Heads fans always hoped for was a reunion between singer-lyricist David Byrne and the other members of the legendary East Coast new-wave quartet, which split in 1991. What they got was a reshaped Talking Heads - sans Mr. Byrne - which is bound to disappoint many.

But the trick to enjoying Friday's Heads show was suspending the memories. If you could do it, you heard an exceptional band playing intriguing new funk-rock songs. If you couldn't...well, you heard a band that sounded a lot like the late, great Talking Heads, but not quite as good.

The Heads boasts three former members of it forerunner - bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz and guitarist-keyboardist Jerry Harrison - along with singer-guitarist Ms. Napolitano (formerly of Concrete Blonde and Pretty & Twisted) and guitarist Blast Murray. While many fans think Mr. Byrne was the brains behind the Talking Heads, the 75 minute concert reminded you that the band's soul came from the fiery rythms of the other three.

Mr. Frantz laid down sharp, syncopated grooves in the new "Punk Lolita" and "No Talking Just Head", while Ms. Weymouth grounded tunes such as "The King is Gone" with her sticky bass lines. Mr. Harrison was particularly effective on keyboards, switching from sinister riffs ("Damage I've Done") to playful solos on Al Green's "Take Me to the River". In one of the show's high points, "Rev It Up" from Mr. Harrison's solo career, they mastered hard-driving 70's funk.

While Mr. Harrison and Ms. Weymouth sang a few songs, Ms. Napolitano emerged as the band's lead vocalist. She sounded raspier thaqn usual Friday night, but she proved to be a commanding singer who easily made the jumpfrom Concrete Blonde's dark alterna-rock to the Heads' rythmic jams.

And though she soared on the new tunes, she stumbled trying to erase the huge specter of Mr. Byrne during the show-closing flurry of Talking Heads hits: "Burning Down the House", "Life During Wartime" and "Psycho Killer". She sang her lungs out, but it was to no avail - each time you heard one of Mr. Byrne's quirky lines ("Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire!") you only wished the spastic beanpole himself was up onstage singing it.
 
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Just got back from seeing the Heads in San Fransisco.

First some general impressions. I was not very impressed with Johnette Napolitano on the album, but the first most striking thing of the live show is how well she did in concert, especially on Talking Heads songs. David Byrne has huge boots to fill and I can't imagine anyone replacing him, but Johnette did as good a job as I can imagine possible.

Second, they did a fairly good job of integrating Talking Heads songs throughout the show. It was like a (Talking) Heads show, and different than when Tom Tom Club would play and then do a couple of Talking Heads songs in the encore.

Excuse me if I don't remember correctly exactelly what they played. I was there to dance & have fun so I'm sure I get some of this wrong.

They started with "Memories Can't Wait" and then "Warning Sign". Next came two Heads songs that are not on the album (The first was introduced by Tina as something that "we are still working on"). Then a song from the album (Maybe Damage I've Done).

Lets see. Other Talking Heads songs played were:

Take Me To The River Life During Wartime Burning Down The House Psycho Killer

Nothing from RIL, Little Creatures, True Stories, Naked. I was expecting them to play Naive Melody sometime. They had the dinky red guitar on stage that Tina used during that song in Stop Making Sense, but they never used it during the show.

Other Heads songs played: No Talking Just Head The King is Gone Punk Lolita (Tina introduced this one as a "true story") Only The Lonely

Also: Genius of Love Rev It Up

About half way through they turned on an electronic message sign (Like you see in airports sometime, etc... LED pixels display words with fades, etc). It displayed a series of little jokes and strange things. Including things like:

"Crosseyed And Painless Dentist" "Born Under Fruit Punch" "The Great Curve Ball"

(And many other twisted song titles).

It also said something along the following:

"Vocalist: Johnette" "We are Experiencing Ego" "Downsizing"

Other random observations: In addition to Chris, Tina, Jerry and Johnette, "Blast" played guitar. He mostly kept his eyes shut and barely moved, although technically he was fine.

I noticed one effect of having three succesful producers doing a band. The Mics (Especially those on the drum kit) were much fancier than normal (I think. I couldn't tell exactelly which models they were but they looked alot more like the stuff I see in studios than any other live Mics I have ever seen). Possibly $2000-$5000 worth of Mics on the drums alone. :)

My impression is that the Heads decided that they wanted to tour, and thought that they needed to make an album in order to get the promotion, etc, of the tour. So they threw together an album with a bunch of friends. Now they are touring and act a bit more cohesive. And the new songs also seem a bit less scattered (I can't really tell if I like them since I've only heard them once, but overall they seemed more interesting than the stuff on the album).

I guess thats all for now. Sorry for the lack of organization. The bottom line is: Alex says, "If the Heads play your city, GO SEE THEM."

> Alex Hopmann
 
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I'm in love with Johnette. The Halloween show was incredible. The last time I had seen the Talking Heads live before this was in 1979. The new sound is actually much closer to 1979's than to 1989's.

Chris grinned and happily lip-synched throughout the entire show. I call him "The Human Metronome." I've never seen anyone so rock-steady.

Tina grooved. She seemed surprised and pleased with the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Blast looks like Mister Hom on Star Trek. What planet did this guy come from? He seemed to be enjoying the groove, while the songs themselves barely taxed his obvious prodigious skill.

Jerry actually looked a bit stoned; he was flawless.

Johnette forgot the words to Life During Wartime and parts of Psycho Killer. Also, I kinda wondered why the band did Psycho Killer at all. It's David's signature and pointless in a real "singer's" hands.

Johnette actually gave me a look like, "I can't believe I'm singing this." She was best when she got a bit more bluesy. I had never seen her perform; it was one of the greatest vocal performances overall that I've seen since, since, since, well maybe ever.

> Dave Kalman
 
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The Heads, Chicago, 11/4/96

Caught The Heads shoe last night, here's some quick notes ...

7:30 show at the Park West, a modern club in the heart of yuppie-Lincoln Park with mostly cocktail seating but a floor and some risers to stand on at the front.

The crowd is a real mix from late 20s to mid-50s. Mostly middle aged nerds though, with slightly outdated haricuts and clothes. (Chicago doesn't usually get too dressed for a Monday night out anyway.)

The opening act was Elysian Fields, a 4 piece act sounding like a cross between Concrete Blonde and the Pixies, with a PJ Harvey-wannabe singer. I enjoyed them, definately a different vibe from the Heads.

Between acts, the group next to me started playing that "Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon" game in earnest. (See what I mean about nerds.)

The Heads played a set similar to one already posted to the group, but here are the highlights:

Memories Can't Wait
Warning Sign
(5 Heads songs I wasn't familiar with since I went without having heard the disc yet)
Take Me To the River (Johnette sang this with a real Tina Turner delivery, including bowed legs and fists)
Damage I've Done
No Talking (Just Head)
Punk Lolita
Psycho Killer (Tina sang an added second verse where she made chicken noises, then Tina and Johnette harmonized on the French part)
Life During Wartime
encore:
Burning Down the House (Johnette doing her Bonnie Rait...)

2nd encore:
Rev it Up (Jerry sang lead)
Genius of Love (oh no! Chris has his headset mic!)

A few nods to Byrne not mentioned in previous posts: Tina signed-off the regular set with David's old "Thank you very much." The electronic sign asked "Are you taking notes?"

BTW
Jerry's got long hair. (Longer then he did in the 70's.) Does anyone else think Chris looks kinda like Bill Clinton? Tina and Johnette are very cool front wo"men" Everybody wore all black, even the roadies.

On the way out everybody was saying that the show was really good, better than expected. I agree. David's missing out on a lot of fun.

> Brandon Reif
 
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I saw the Heads show in Boston last night. It was great. Worth every penny of the $15 admission price. (I would have paid 3 times as much). The show was at the Paradise in Boston this past Friday night. A band call Elysian Fields opened for them. They were fair. The singer looked and acted like a stripper on heroin. They are also on the RadioActive record label.

Johnette Napolitano was incredible. Completely worthy of filling db's shoes. I never felt like she was trying to replace David. She definately brought her own style and flair to the group. I was very impressed by her.

OK here are the details and my review of the show. If you are planning to see the show and want to be suprised, do not continue reading this because I intend on being as detailed as possible for those who are geographically unfortunate.

I got there early and was right in the front row about 2 feet from where Tina was playing. ( She tossed me her pick at the end of the show.) I also stole Tina's song list from the floor of the stage when the show was over. Here are the songs (and I will type them exactly as the appear on the sheet):

MEMORIES
WARNING
I DON'T CARE
DRIVE ME
ONLY THE LONELY
DOG
KING IS GONE
RIVER
DAMAGE I HAVE DONE
NO BIG BANG
NO TALKING
PUNK LOLITA
NO MORE LONELY NIGHTS
PSYCHO
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BURNING
WARTIME
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REV IT UP
GENIUS'
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Memories Can't Wait
Warning Sign
 
I found it odd that they would start the show with these two songs. They sounded very similar to the way the Talknig Heads sounded in the old days. Johnette immediately displayed her vocal talents and put any of my fears to rest that the show wouldn't be good without David. After these two songs, I don't think I even thought about db the rest of the night.

I Don't Care
A new song not on the CD. Pretty good. I don't really remember it well.

Drive Me
Another new one not on the CD. Very good. Johnette's style had a lot of influence on this song.

Only The Lonely
Gordon Gano sings this one better than Johnette but that's just my opinion. I'm a big Femmes fan.

Dog
Introduced as a song about Chris and Tina's neighbor's dog. The neighbor was in the audience and Tina pointed him out. This was a great song. Really fun.

King is Gone
Very similar to the CD. Johnette does Michael Hutchence quite well.

Take me to the River
Excellent cover of a cover. The band really started to get more into the show by this point. To me it was the turning point of the night. The show was really hopping now. Johnette once again showed she could easily deliver all the power necessary with her voice for songs like this.

Damage I've Done
Similar to the CD. There was not as much static and distortion durring the How do I undo the damage I have done. The distortion tends to irritate me on the CD

No Bing Bang
10 times better live. This was definately one of the best of the night.

No Talking Just Head
Very similar to the CD

Punk Lolita
100 times better live. The best of the night! Much more passionate and powerful than the CD.

No More Lonely Nights
Boston definately lucked out on this one because Malin Anneteg made a guest appearance and sang this one. She was introduced by Tina as a poet, originally from Sweden (which Tina then went on to describe as a small country with a lot of very nice people). The only bad part about this song was Malin's voice was too drowned out by the instruments. You couldn't hear her well enough. I think this may have been the first time she performed the song live in front of so many screaming fans. She seemed very nervous.

Psycho Killer
Johnette did this one proud.The instrumental ending was a very powerful twist on the original. One noteable lyrical improvisation:

When I have nothing to say
I shut the fuck up
And when you have nothing to say 
You should too

Encore#1

Burning Down the House
Life During Wartime
Musically these were excellent. Johnette needs to learn the words to these songs though. She was constantly missing entire sections and often looking down at the lyric sheets on the ground.

Encore #2

Rev It Up
Jerry sang this version of his original. A great live rendition

Genius of Love
Tina sang this one with Chris doing his usual : James Brown...James Brown

My review of the band members:

Johnette Napolitano
So much better than I ever expected. She wore black pants, black shoes a short black shirt, and a black hat. Great stage presence. By far the most fun to watch. Drank Heineken and had some really funny skull shaped maracas.

Tina Weymouth
She looks pretty good for her age. She seemed to be the one having the most fun. She wore black leather pants, black boots, a short blue silk shirt and the back of her beat up lavender colored bass had the word HELP on it in big red letters. Drank bottled water.

Chris Frantz
He looks old. He was definately the goof ball of the show. Smiling constantly and lip syncing along with most of the songs. Drank beer (couldn't tell what kind)

Jerry Harrison
He looked like he didn't even want to be there. He showed no emotion at all. He was dressed in black. (He looked terrible, and he does need a haircut). Didn't see him drink anything.

T 'Blast' Murray
Had his eyes shut most of the time. Wore construction boots, jeans and a grey tank top. He seemed very out of place with the rest of the band. Didn't see him drink anything

Malin Anneteg
She was very stereotypical Swedish. Cute, blonde hair and an enourmous chest. She looked young. Maybe low to mid twenties. She wore a black sweater with a long skirt. She had her hair in these really funny pig tails.

General Comments:

About midway through the show Tina said that her parent were in the audience. She pointed to them and they waved to the crowd. A very cute old couple.

Everyone on stage performed with great skill. They were very tight. The sound quality was excellent.

I did not get to see the t-shirts. I'm not sure where they were selling them so I cannot describe them.

On a scale from 1-10, I would give this show an 8.5. Mainly because it was so much better than I expected.

They had a digital text display above Chris. It wasn't turned on until the encores. Some of the more noteable quotes were:

Born Under Fruit Punches
Jerry Harrison Loves Magicians
The Heads Like You...But Not Like That
Have you kicked your cat today?
Chris is easy to talk to....Blast is not

Oh well, that's my 2 cents

> Conundrumz
 
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Well, I too saw the Boston show last Friday, but This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it wrote the review first! And dammit, the review says everything *I* was going to mention! ;-) Excellent job! So I'll just fill in the gaps with what little was left out.

Jerry:
I stood close to the Jerry Harrison side of the stage. He looked like he was "on something" at the start of the show, I thought he would topple over! But he appeared to get his senses back. I bet I'm the only person who thinks his hair looks fine. I actually got him to smile once by yelling "Play Magic Hymie!!!" between songs. He looked up and chuckled. He even did a lot of barking during the "Dog" song, and sang "Let It Ride" during the second encore.

Johnette:
I have never listened to Concrete Blonde or Pretty & Twisted and I think "Damage I Have Done" is a mediocre song. So I really had no opinions about Johnette before the show, one way or another. I leave a fan. A big fan. She did such an incredible job! Everyone I talked to in the crowd mentioned that The Heads should record "No Talking, Just Head" with Johnette doing all of the vocals. She did that good a job. I also like how she adds such energy and youth to the band. The "Shrunken Heads" tour looked stiff and tired. CT+J have got to be sick of flopping through unsuccesful album after unsuccesful album (the last two or three TTC, and all of Jerry's) it seems like Johnette really recharged them. She was egging on Jerry during his keyboard solos (!) and called him "Scary Jerry". She goofed around with Tina a lot like girls in high school. She smacked Chris with a towel when leaving the stage. She lent a refreshing new angle to old standbys like "Take Me To the River" (very sexy) and "Psycho Killer" (very angry and sarcastic). The line "When I have nothing to say.... I SHUT THE FUCK UP!" was hysterical. The band actually did a lot of jamming! They would improvise some lines, and then the other band members would keep egging them on. Fun stuff. Although Johnette did forget a lot of lines to "Genius of Love" and one other THeads song, no one seemed to mind.

Tina:
Was that Tina Weymouth? Isn't she in her 40's? The Tina at The Heads show looked mid-20's if that! She was very thin, wearing tight black pants, bounced around on stage, bantered with the audience... she even did a cartwheel on stage when she came out for the first encore! She seemed to be having a lot of fun with Johnette. I'm just still in shock that Tina looked so young and that she has so much energy.

Chris:
Still looks like Clinton. I heard him do the "legendary" James Brown-thing. I can die happy.

The Band in General:
I still think that the album is stiff and uninspiring. There are 3 or 4 decent songs (No Big Bang, Indie Haircut is kind of cute, Papersnow) but it is very uneven. A lot of clunkers. But all of the songs played during the show sounded 10X better than the album! I was so impressed! Punk Lolita, while kind of embarassing on the album, was actually funky live! It was played a bit faster, with more... oomph. The new songs that they played were introduced as "here's a song that we wrote with Johnette..." and everyone thought "Damage" was coming up... but no. The new songs sound good, though. I'm excited that they are writing new stuff with Johnette. The rumor going around is that she's now the permanent Heads vocalist, and that their next album will have her doing all the vocals/co-writing. Can anyone confirm/deny?

Minor Nitpicks and Observations:
The scrolling LCD sign said at one point:
"Jerry Harrison: Magician, Lover?"
"Visit us at http:\\www.theheads.com" (I guess backslashes aren't common in LCD signs) "Your haircut just changed." "Are you the best crowd ever? Yes." and other things...

On the album- Did anyone notice the "Genius of Love" keyboard part hidden in the reggae intro to "Don't Take My Kindness For Weakness"? Listen carefully.

Whew, that's all I can think of now. I'm thinking of traveling to see The Heads in Northampton, MA tomorrow. Any list-members that can put me up for the night? ;-)

In conclusion- if you have a chance to see The Heads, regardless what you think of the album, DO IT.

> Steve Wood
 
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I just got back from the Heads Show in NoHo/Mass. It was incredible. Pretty much the same as the two Boston reviews describe it. Malin Anneteg performed "No More Lonely Nights" too. All of them seemed to have a lot of fun on stage through the whole show -- laughed and joked a lot. Even Blast was laughing several times...

The Heads really do not seem to need David Byrne -- they got Johnette... I'm glad that we've got now this incredible band besides David Byrne's Solo Projects. Two excellent bands are better than one, aren't they?

> Karsten Jung