In the course of a year there come into view many elite efforts, ranging from graphic art to architecture. We pay due homage to the heart and wit going into this range of mountainous delights; but as urbanites continually in the midst of special accomplishment verging on the uncanny we readily suppose that the crème de la crème is our business and not for those who live in the hinterland.
That is not a particularly bad thing to carry around, but it tends to, if not overlook completely other fields of special endeavor, give them short shrift—a carelessness which arbiters of cool and chic do not even begin to realize how severely the peril therewith places one. It is one thing to thrill in being in on a sea-change of sensibility and creative power. It is something else to factor in that most of the population will never take this feast to heart.
Imagine, then, our enchantment with an incident–within one of the most egregious jags of preening in the spotlight of the in-the-know, namely, the annual Toronto Luminato Arts Festival–coming out of left field which sets its sights squarely upon that dilemma of disaffection.
The left fielder sustaining this game is none other than David Byrne, the former spearhead of those 1980’s Dadaists, Talking Heads. But whereas the Heads were always (archly) about a world of rather dizzy impasse, the more recent soloist has set his sights upon prospects of spanning what had been hitherto seen as a ridiculously gigantic gulf.
Having come across the phenomenon of the color guard in its high school spin-off known as the winter guard–whereby the long-standing feature of expanding upon marching bands by way of flourishing flags, batons and mock rifles morphs into theatre to the fore with pre-recorded music taking a back seat–Byrne could imagine the highly accomplished theatricality and sleight of hand of that competitive eventuation to ignite a truly strange synthesis.
Driving themselves to active perfection of launching and fielding their mission’s missiles, rather ordinary adolescents come to bear as effectively elite indeed while still basically having a long way to go.
Byrne’s final piece de resistance concerns the enlistment of a corps of very accomplished rock musicians, each one of which–notably, St. Vincent (seen directly above), Lucius, How to Dress Well, TuNe YaRdS, Nelly Furtado and Byrne himself–creating original compositions for a team. Thereby the pros would play a part in shaping the breakaway theatre of each group.
The local press by and large dismissed the show in two ways. One was to fuss that the links between the music and the dance were not of compatible calibre. Another was a prissy populist hatchet job decrying the horrors of Americana (those demonic rifles), and feeling cheated by amateurish aspects of the color guards. That myopia highlights two different worlds going to war. One with a jaunty step. The other mouthing impertinent platitudes.
More to the question of cutting edge spectacle design and dramatic tonality.