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David Byrne and Brian Eno: The Best Talking Heads

An opinionated take on the week in live music, Oct. 10-16

Gig of the Week

David Byrne
(State Theatre, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., $46.50-$56.50)

David Byrne’s Talking Heads created the “New Wave” music of the late 1970s, a brainy, DIY, art-rock alternative to both the SoCal solipsism of The Eagles and Jackson Browne and the punk nihilism of The Sex Pistols and The Dead Boys. While the Heads’ first two records were refreshingly spare and crisp, the band didn’t reach its full potential until producer Brian Eno provided Byrne’s arch observatory of the human condition with a snazzy albeit spacey and ambient soundtrack that could both rock and loll. Their collaborative three-album parlay culminated with the Heads’ resplendently funky “Remain in Light” (a cerebral, hip-swiveling masterpiece), followed by a sans-Heads, Byrne-Eno encore, “Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” that was hugely influential in its blend of African beats and vocal samples.

Now, 27 years after the release of “Ghosts,” Byrne and Eno have unfurled “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” Described by Byrne as “electronic gospel,” it’s a gorgeous 11-song set that is more pacific in sound and spirit than their previous work yet retains their inimitably seductive blend of the sophisticated and the mundane. (While the disc won’t be released until Nov. 30, it can be heard in its streaming entirety at David Byrne’s website. Here’s a YouTube rendition of the first single, “Strange Overtones”:

Better yet, Byrne is touring behind the past and present material he has concocted with Eno. Consider that his regular set list includes the starched Afro-techno of “I Zimbra,” the blipping funk blizzard of “Cross Eyed and Painless,” the one-two punch of “Once in a Lifetime” and “Life During Wartime,” and an encore that pairs the testimonial “Take Me to the River” and the butt-shaking “The Great Curve.” Many of the new tunes are woven through the set, which is performed by a quintet with the help of three backup singers and three dancers. Ever attentive to concert visuals (remember the big shoulders of “Stop Making Sense”?), Byrne, who now sports a near-neon silver shock of hair, has everyone clad totally in white, with plenty of motion onstage — and, you can bet, in the audience.

A fabulous week for middle-aged male musicians

If you can’t score tix for Byrne, there’s no shortage of worthy backup plans.

Neil Young
(Xcel Energy Center, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., $50-$250)

Neil Young resumes his “Chrome Dreams” arena tour at the hockey barn the same night, delivering classic songs across the spectrum of his catalog, from “Cinnamon Girl” to “Heart of Gold” to “Powderfinger” to “Rocking in the Free World,” typically polishing off the evening with a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” Here’s a version from the European leg of his tour this summer.

Or how about:

Nick Lowe
(Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, Saturday, Oct. 11, 10 p.m., $35)

Lowe will deliver his increasingly relevant and tender rendition of “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” plus a batch of other more whimsical yet nearly as wise originals in the confines of an intimate jazz club.

And don’t forget:

Alejandro Escovedo
(Fine Line Music Café, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m., $18 in advance, $20 day of show)

Escovedo was No Depression magazine’s “Artist of the Decade” in the 1990s; his latest CD, “Real Animal,” is probably his finest and most definitive work yet. Escovedo is the interview-feature subject of my Tuesday column next week.

Katrina and music: pro and con

Dirty Dozen Brass Band
(The Cabooze, Saturday, Oct. 11, 9:20 p.m., $14 in advance, $16 day of show)

The DDBB pioneered a brass band revival nearly a quarter-century ago, but lost a little bit of their snappy insouciance over the years. Honoring fallen member Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen with “Funeral for a Friend” resurrected their profile in a more serious vein in 2004, and the followup to “Friend” — a brass band remake of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” album as a way to lament the physical carnage and bureaucratic insensitivity arising from Hurricane Katrina — seemed on paper to be a superb idea. Certainly it was the kind of project everyone wanted to praise. But two years after its release, it’s apparent that it lacks the soulful grease and individual anguish (not to mention the originality) of Marvin’s indelible creation.

If you want New Orleans horns with a dash of Katrina remembrance, there’s:

Preservation Hall Jazz Band backing The five Blind boys of Alabama
(“Down by The Riverside,” Orchestra Hall, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2 p.m., $22-$48)

After residing three miles from each other for decades, the PHJB members were uprooted by Katrina. Their scramble to preserve their heritage and reconstitute their ensemble resulted in a glorious grab-bag of songs entitled “The Hurricane Sessions,” released last year. And now they’ve got the Blind Boys — Twin Cities favorites ever since the “Gospel at Colonus” took the Guthrie by storm in the ’80s — to flesh out their vocals. I can hardly wait to hear Clarence Fountain and his crew tackle “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well,” and hope the group closes the concert as they did the “Sessions,” with a raucous version of “It’s Your Last Chance to Dance.”

The beauty of Cape Verde

(Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, Wednesday, Oct. 15, $25 at 7 p.m. and $20 for the 9:30 show)

Let’s inject a little age and gender diversity into these recommendations with this 32-year old native of Cape Verde, a former Portuguese island colony off the west coast of Africa. Lura has evolved from a callow zouk-pop thrush in the late ’90s to become heir to Cesaria Evora as the musical matriarch of Cape Verde. She has immersed herself in the country’s stylistic porridge of its Creole, African, Latin, and western-pop influences. Expect festive melodies, dipthong-heavy lyrics and a variety of infectious beats as she assays the batuque and funana rhythms with her band.

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