In the late 1970s, music executive Seymour Stein coined the term “new wave” in an effort to persuade DJs who balked at punk artists to give his new band, Talking Heads, some air time. The punk-adjacent quartet would ultimately pioneer this new sound into the 1980s, kicking off the decade with the seminal album Remain in Light
. More than 30 years since the band's breakup, keyboardist and core guitarist Jerry Harrison has reunited with a crucial player on the album, Adrian Belew, for a 40th-anniversary tour that makes a stop at Music Hall at Fair Park on June 13.
If the math for a 40th-anniversary tour happening this year seems off, that’s because it is — the pandemic set Harrison’s plans back a while. After a celebratory performance last October in Los Angeles, the duo announced the full-blown tour that began earlier this year.
“We thought this would be largely a festival act because nobody could judge how large of an audience we would draw in the beginning,” Harrison says over the phone from Virginia, on a daylong break between shows. “But as the reputation for the shows that we did in festivals grew, it became clear that we could do [a tour].”
This leg of the tour includes co-headliner Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, back after a 20-year hiatus, and will feature Sean Lennon on guitar. Claypool gained popularity as the bassist for the band Primus and is generally considered one of the greatest bassists of all time. Claypool and his band will perform original music and the 1977 Pink Floyd album Animals
in its entirety.
"It's a great combination for lovers of fabulous albums," Harrison says.
Aside from Remain in Light
's anniversary itself, much of the inspiration for Harrison to head out on the road came from the original tour’s 1980 concert in Rome, which Harrison rediscovered on YouTube; it inspired him to re-create the type of energy and excitement he remembered from playing that show. Belew was also on that tour, and once Harrison persuded him and funk band Cool Cool Cool — with musicians whom Harrison has produced and with whom he'd previously performed Talking Heads music — to join him, things came together seemingly effortlessly.
While it’s safe to say that most fans associate the Talking Heads with frontman David Byrne, Harrison sings a handful of songs on the new tour, including the single “Houses in Motion.” Belew sings most of the time.
“No one's trying to really replace David Byrne," Harrison says. "No one’s trying to impersonate him. I've been able to find a way to sort of feel like I'm taking a great song and singing in my own way.”
Remain in Light
was the band’s third and final collaboration with iconic producer Brian Eno and featured the emblematic track “Once in a Lifetime.” Shifting in style from the band's previous album, 1979’s Fear of Music
, Remain in Light
strongly embraces African polyrhythms and includes Byrne’s then newly found stream-of-consciousness lyrical style. In 2020, Rolling Stone
listed it at number 39 on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time
"Reactions [of the show] have been just complete pandemonium." — Jerry Harrison
The tour this year includes one of Harrison’s favorite songs off the album, “The Great Curve,” which hasn’t been played live since 1980. “And Adrian’s guitar solo is just amazing,” he says. Belew’s role in the making of Remain in Light
all those years ago is partly thanks to Harrison, who tracked him down with help from Byrne and Eno and persuaded him to play. All of Belew’s guitar parts were reportedly recorded in one day.
Belew is also widely known as the singer and guitarist for the prog rock band King Crimson, and for his work as a session player for acts such as David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Nine Inch Nails. Harrison began his music career in the punk band Modern Lovers in the 1970s.
“Modern Lovers were certainly one of the forbearers of punk,” Harrison says, and he credits frontman Jonathan Richman for his professional music career.
Talking Heads disbanded in 1991 after 16 years together, and while fans have reluctantly accepted that there will likely never be a reunion of all members, Harrison and company seem to have recreated that energy and excitement from 43 years ago in Rome after all.
"Reactions [of the show] have been just complete pandemonium,” he says.
And it’s safe to say this observation aligns with what he believes is the most important thing he learned while playing with one of the most influential rock bands in history.
“It isn’t about the technique with which you play music," Harrison says. "It's about the attitude and it’s about the sensibility that you want to get across to the audience.”