In a year like 2020, we have to hold on to every little bit of happiness we can find. Luckily, there is plenty to be found in David Byrne’s American Utopia.
David Byrne, best known for his work as part of The Talking Heads, is an entertainer of the highest order. In his Broadway show, American Utopia, Byrne takes the stage with eleven others to bring us an entirely memorable experience. Byrne takes the audience on a ride that is joyful and cathartic in ways that are near impossible to explain.
The show consists of Byrne performing songs from his new album, as well as some classics. In between each, Byrne takes a moment to reflect on life through witty, thought provoking observations. Despite the fact that this is only a recording of a performance, it is very much an experience. Directed by Spike Lee, this concert film had an effect on me that I have never experienced.
A True Experience
I went in to American Utopia, thinking I would support a filmmaker that I greatly admire and enjoy some music. I was under the assumption that I would get in, get out, and forget about it not long after. How wrong I was. To truly experience American Utopia, one has to let themselves be taken in by the film. It is utterly entrancing in the way that it is so perfectly paced and staged.
For someone who knew very few of the songs going in to the film, I found myself absolutely enamored by the spectacle of it all. It’s kind of funny to think about when you consider that the stage set-up is not especially evocative. In fact, it is quite plain. As are the costumes – drab, dark grey suits – which each dancer wears uniformly. This may sound like a criticism when in fact, it is anything but. To create a stage show with all of its actors wearing one uniform and performing in one basic area is a risk. But here, it pays off. It allows us to focus on what we are hearing and, most importantly, what we are feeling.
Hope for An American Utopia
This film won’t be for everyone. Some may watch it and get nothing out of it. I implore you to immerse yourself in the experience though. Feel the words as they flow through the air and into your ears, become entirely mystified by the combination of singing and dancing like you have never seen before, hear the message that is being shared.
Byrne shares a sense of optimism with his audience, while refusing to shy away from atrocities committed every day. We are all one kind and we should be hoping to achieve the same thing. It’s films like these that make me have hope. They make me feel like some day we can truly do it. As more and more people open up their hearts to this beautiful film, to the ideas that Byrne has to share, and to each other, we may one day experience American Utopia.