Posted by: greercn | January 21, 2011

Ride, Rise, Roar

Movies that feature live music performance rarely work. One of the exceptions is Jonathan Demme’s “Stop Making Sense”, which featured the Talking Heads live  in concert. If you recall nothing else, you will remember the massive white suit David Byrne wore, which made a statement for art, fashion and music lovers everywhere.

Getting dancing, music and costume to feel modern and alive is the greatest strength here. Byrne has gone for white again – but it’s form-fitting and spare, except when everyone dons tutus for a few minutes. He takes risks. When they fail, they are the wrong side of “Praise You”  by FatBoy Slim. But when they work , the dance and music offer a sublime and magical combination. Mostly, it’s terrific and different, as a back to basics masterclass of musical and dance excellence.

In time, I think “Ride, Rise, Roar” will be as iconic of our pared-back and cash-strapped times as “Sense” is of a particular kind of excess. The songs and the band shone, but it’s the huge fabric suit wearing Byrne that stays in your head. It’s just too much, as were those times. In contrast, “Roar” will be seen as a statement of all that stands out now in performance, even with a low budget.

David Byrne is one of the great creative innovators of music and art. What is unusual about him is that having made great albums with the Talking Heads, he went on to have a rich creative life collaborating with Brian Eno and others.  “My Life In The Bush of Ghosts” is excellent. If the songs in “Roar” are typical, the new collaboration is even better.

“The Catherine Wheel” is another firm favourite of mine and this collaboration, with dance genius Twyla Tharp, honed skills in working with music and dance that get builtt on a great deal in “Roar”.

Yes, bits are frankly pretentious. But you’re whirling to the next song and choreography so quickly that those annoying bits don’t matter. Byrne is a genius of a particular generation of Rhode Island School of Design graduates and it was a golden age.

The 80-strong audience at the Stratford Picturehouse loved it. I felt conspicuous being the only person dancing, but I was in the back row and could slide out of sight. Hillman Curtis directs tightly, with rehearsals in black and white and performances in colour. Live footage is culled from performances in different places and some audiences react better than others. It’s a great movie about the creative process.

One quibble stops this from being an unconditional gush. The question and answer session from the Ritzy in Brixton was just awful. Oh, David Byrne was terrific, intelligent and incisive as he always is. But the interviewer was asking the same questions again and again and refusing to accept the answers. I was impressed that Byrne kept his cool, found some common ground (they both like the band Lambchop, as do I) and ploughed on.

After half an hour of watching an interviewer utterly full of himself – I have no idea who he was – it’s possible the audience got some questions in. I no longer cared. I wanted to go home, find some of the tunes and dance some more. Find the latest collaborations between Eno and Byrne, but skip any footage of the question and answer session. Unless you are a media student looking for tips on how NOT to interview.


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