For David Byrne, the Broadway reopening of “American Utopia” past Sunday — 24 months aft his present Tony-winning amusement first opened successful 2019 — was a “friends and family” affair.
“I would look retired and I’d go, ‘Oh, there’s truthful and so’s family!’ ” the 69-year-old euphony icon told The Post. “You could spot each these radical that we knew, truthful it was truly similar playing for your friends, which meant I had to effort not to look astatine them [to concentrate].”
In fact, the assemblage included 1 celebrated person who has go a spot of an “American Utopia” groupie: “Amy Schumer came to the opening,” said Byrne. “I deliberation she’s been to the amusement astir 8 times!”
“American Utopia” — a theatrical, quasi-concert accumulation that incorporates music, interpretive creation and Byrne’s signifier banter, which ranges from comical to topical — won a peculiar Tony past period due to the fact that it defied categorization by not fitting into the philharmonic oregon play divisions. But past again, the art-rocker has ne'er played by the rules.
And by breaking Broadway norms, Byrne is present burning down the location astatine the St. James Theatre with a full antithetic assemblage connected the Great White Way.
“The assemblage to immoderate grade is getting younger and much diverse,” said Byrne. “Way backmost successful 2019, we wanted that to happen, but now, aft the pandemic, it really is happening. It looks to maine similar immoderate radical successful the assemblage aren’t acquainted with my music, which to maine is simply a bully thing. It means we person to enactment to triumph them over, and we fundamentally person to bash a bully amusement that is not relying connected them being Talking Heads fans oregon thing similar that.”
No doubt, “American Utopia” — which weaves tracks from Byrne’s 2018 medium of the aforesaid name, different songs from his solo vocation and immoderate Talking Heads tunes into a socially conscious connection connected the state — feels eerily prescient aft the pandemic, past year’s contentious statesmanlike predetermination and the protests against radical injustice.
“It seems similar we benignant of saw what was coming,” said Byrne. “Back successful 2019, we were talking astir immigration, voting, race. We would driblet each these issues into the show, and past of people erstwhile the pandemic hit, a batch of that worldly truly came to the forefront of people’s consciousness. It was similar the curtain had been pulled backmost … And I thought, ‘Well, that’s what we’ve been trying to bash successful the show.’ As a performer, I felt obliged to code the satellite we unrecorded in.”
Byrne remained successful New York for astir of the “pretty brutal” days of the pandemic past year, biking astir the metropolis with his “American Utopia” set members to get caller aerial and sometimes cycling done the desolate Theater District. Now, helium has a caller appreciation for Broadway since its reopening.
“Someone similar me, who benignant of grew up with the downtown euphony satellite and arts world, we benignant of hide however overmuch of a happening Broadway is arsenic portion of New York. I mean, it’s huge,” helium said. “And, well, Broadway’s changing. There’s country for the Disney musicals; there’s besides country for different stuff.”
And aft experiencing songwriter’s artifact during lockdown — “At the clip it was conscionable this benignant of unreality that descended,” helium said — Byrne is getting his originative groove back: “I tin consciousness that the juices are starting to travel again.”
Byrne volition people a publication of drawings that helium did during the pandemic successful February, and helium has an immersive theatre portion opening successful Denver adjacent summer. And if there’s immoderate uncertainty astir his ongoing relevance with a young procreation of instrumentalist fans who marque him consciousness “encouraged,” he’s presently connected the screen of Rolling Stone alongside Lorde, with the 2 artists interviewing each other.
But portion Taking Heads classics specified arsenic “This Must Be the Place,” “Once successful a Lifetime” and, of course, “Burning Down the House” get the biggest absorption successful “American Utopia,” don’t expect Byrne to reunite with his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band: “No, I don’t deliberation so. It’s been a agelong time, and we’ve each benignant of gone our abstracted ways.”