by Rob Jones
‘Stop Making Sense’is a 1984 American concert featuring Talking Heads in action. This seminal and market leading rock-doc has been given a 2023 remaster and it is out and about for public viewing. The wonderful setting of the Chapter Arts Theatre in Canton had a week residency of this renowned release and attendance at the final showing recorded a fine attendance. .
As a music fan, I have delved in and out of Talking Heads and to my shame I had not seen this aural and visual masterpiece. However, after an evening in the suburbs of Cardiff, I have nothing but respect for this cinematic soundscape and in the comfort of the Chapter there is not a better setting.
Four nights at the Pantage Theatre, Hollywood in December 1983 are captured for posterity and to think that this music is 40 years old is mind-blowing. Talking Heads were promoting their current album Speaklng in Tongues but there is also a selection of songs from the back catalogue plus solo offerings from lead man David Byrne and a Genius of Love gem from the vaults of the Tom Tom Club (fronted by the band’s rhythm section of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth.
Byrne, Frantz, and Weymouth are joined by band member Jerry Harrison and the line-up is further supplemented by support singers Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt, guitarist Alex Weir, keyboardist Bernie Worrell and percussionist Steve Scales. The evidence shows that each and every component of the performance is valid and the contributions add to what is a recording of the highest value.
Psycho Killer, Burning down the House, Once in a Lifetime, Life during Wartime and Girlfriend is Better lead a pack of precise pop directly from the house of Heads. Four decades on and these tunes could still fill a floor with their funky fury – and, the drive, determination and discipline of the performance is simply otherworldly.
As regards the original four-piece – Byrne is on fire, Frantz is an engine, Harrison adds the hooks and Weymouth is the driving force with those bombastic bass lines. However, to highlight the quartet is diminishing the wondrous Weir and Worrell, the essential Holt and Mabry, plus the sublime Scales.
Jonathan Demme directs what is considered by many critics to be one of the premier gig recordings, and this entertainment extravaganza has so much more to offer rather than just being registered as a cult classic. Regarded as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’, to just talk about the sounds is undermining the energy and enterprise of the action.
The show builds from a one-man performance into a duo, trio, quartet and then a mass ensemble arrives. The demonic dancing and riotous running is worthy of Olympic status covering every base from 100 metres to the marathon.
Then there is that big suit and the Byrne eccentricities including waltzing with a lamp. Saint David is on a pop pedestal. The extreme outfit had the vibrant vocalist declare:”I wanted my head to appear smaller and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger, because music is very physical and often the body understands it before the head.” However, that out there tailoring became synonymous with the movieand was heavily used in the promotion.
However, the advice is start making sense and treat yourself to a viewing and also keep your eyes peeled for other events at The Chapter because over the years I have had the pleasure of watching movies here featurring the likes of John Lydon, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Vivienne Westwood. A stellar bunch, eh?
So, happy hunting as you enjoy Talking Heads and the vast array of art, theatre, film and more in Canton. Please check out www.chapter.org