The Creative Chameleon
David Byrne defies categorization. Perhaps best known as the front man for the Talking Heads, the Scottish-born pop star is also an acclaimed solo artist and musician in the broadest sense of the word: singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist. But his creative catalog doesn’t stop there. He’s a polymath artist, with installations fabricated from flowcharts, PowerPoint software, and tree drawings. He’s a published author, delving into the history of music and its impact on the human experience, espousing the merits of cycling, and exploring the minutiae of daily life. And in his most recent chapter, he’s a producer of theatrical experiences, from a disco musical about the wife of a Filipino dictator to an immersive tour of a fictional David Byrne’s “memory palace.” The only thing David seems incapable of is repeating himself.
Written together with philanthropist and tech investor Mala Gaonkar, Theater of the Mind takes the audience on a reverse adventure through the life of a fictional David himself. Guides wearing “David” name tags usher in experiences that warp your sense of reality and challenge the idea of identity as fixed. Meanwhile, movement — specifically by the audience — is at the heart of Here Lies Love, a collaboration with English musician and DJ Fatboy slim, about former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. Now playing on Broadway, the interactive production converts the theater into a discotheque and has theatergoers dancing through a wedding, a political rally, and an assassination. No less engaging, but without the pink jumpsuit-clad wranglers directing the audience with lightsticks, is David Byrne’s American Utopia. The barefoot concert with revival meeting vibes premiered on Broadway before the pandemic and was reimagined in 2020 as a Spike Lee film.