On a beautiful September evening in 2018, I had the immense privilege of being at the Forest Hills Stadium stop of David Byrne’s American Utopia tour. It was a significant night as it had been 35 years since Byrne, along with his Talking Heads bandmates, had performed two shows there as part of the legendary Stop Making Sense tour. No less thrilling, the American Utopia tour consisted of Byrne flanked by 11 band members comprising nine multi-instrumentalists and two performers. Untethered and free to roam anywhere on the stage, it was part marching band, part color guard and downright funky. At the end of the evening, as the last sounds rang out and the bows were taken, it was clear to that audience of 14,000 that they had witnessed something special.
Cut to 2019 and the show has moved indoors to the rarified lights of Broadway’s Hudson Theater. In these smaller confines, rejiggered and in parts resequenced, it took on a whole new life. While the phenomenal choreography and lighting were for the most part unchanged, the intimacy of the theater more immediately and intensely highlighted the show's themes of human connection, human evolvement and social justice. Spike Lee, having a hell of a year already with the powerful Da 5 Bloods, was brought in to film the proceedings which premieres on HBO on Saturday, October 17. What unfolds is one of the most glorious, vibrant concert films in quite some time.