In 1979, the sound of seminal New York art rockers Talking Heads had reached a remarkable sonic evolution as they integrated more complex rhythms and arrangements into their music. Their third studio album, Fear of Music, retained their humorous tendencies, but their lyrics were also more thought-provoking than ever.
On this day in 1979, the band performed in Boston, Mass. at the Berklee College of Music Performance Center during their Fear of Music tour with support from The B-52’s. This recording of Talking Heads features the band’s original lineup when they were at the peak of their four-piece powers.
Wolfgang’s Vault writer Alan Bershaw commented on the significance of the tour:
The 1979 Talking Heads tour would be the last to feature the stripped-down quartet lineup and the first to gain them significantly more exposure in America. They had established themselves in Europe, but outside of college radio or the New England and California regions, America was just catching on to what an intriguing and captivating live band they were. This performance at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music was one of the wildest and most memorable performances on this breakthrough tour. Shortly after this tour, Talking Heads would begin overtly expanding their musical parameters. With the help of MTV and its heavy rotation of the music video for “Once In a Lifetime” the following year, the band’s music would reach a much broader audience.
Bershaw also described the electricity of lead singer David Byrne and co.’s live performance that night, noting some of the show’s highlights:
The overt awkwardness that frontman David Byrne often displayed onstage was just beginning to be perceived as the uninhibited expression that it really was, with many now dancing to it. His unusual vocal affectations were engaging and the music was clearly beginning to resonate more deeply, particularly in a live context. The set opens with “Artists Only” from 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food, then “Stay Hungry” in a somewhat ominous style, with Jerry Harrison’s keyboards adding even creepier textures than the album version. “Cities,” a track from Fear Of Music follows and it’s a galloping romp through Byrne’s stream of consciousness thoughts about city life.
Listen to Talking Heads’ live performance in Boston on this day in 1979 below.