David Byrne crashed his own tribute concert, leading a marching band down the aisle at Carnegie Hall and, eventually, to an onstage dance party to the tune of “Uptown Funk.”
He showed up at the end of an annual tribute that benefits music education, an unusual sight since past musicians whose work was celebrated — like Paul Simon and Prince — did not appear. Byrne’s entrance came after CeeLo Green brought the tribute to a close by singing “Take Me to the River.”
The former Talking Heads frontman, dressed in a white shirt with black suspenders and black bow tie, sang “God’s Army” with the brass-and-drum Brooklyn United Marching Band, singing to the audience that “everything I did, I did for you.”
The band, joined by red-suited dancers, belted out “Uptown Funk” while most of the artists who performed Byrnes’ work joined them onstage.
The artists led a highly danceable romp through Byrne’s eclectic catalog as a solo artist and bandleader. Soul singer Sharon Jones brought the audience to its feet with the first notes of “Psycho Killer” and kept them there.
In an unusual mash-up of 1980s culture, ZZ Top guitarist Billy F. Gibbons spoke-sang Talking Heads’ Afro-funk “Houses in Motion.” Gibbons easily beat singer Steve Earle, who performed the Byrne solo song “A Million Miles Away,” in the longest beard competition.
Other highlights included “Once” singer Glen Hansard dueting with Jherek Bischoff on “Girlfriend is Better,” with a piercing fiddle. Joseph Arthur painted a portrait in the midst of his eerie version of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” The Roots were joined by singer Donn T for “Born Under Punches.” Santigold brought fire — and some synchronized dancers — for “Burning Down the House.”
Perched on Cibo Matto‘s keyboard was a drawing of a bicycle with a big basket — Byrne’s usual mode of transportation around the city he calls home.
Appropriately enough, the benefit was opened by a group of school-aged youngsters performing “Stay Up Late.”
Then, presumably, they went to bed.