“It is my honor and privilege that my art brother, Mr. David Byrne, asked me to join him in concert, to invite me into his magnificent world of American Utopia,” Lee said in a statement. “And dat’s da ‘once in a lifetime’ truth, Ruth. Ya-dig? Sho-nuff. Peace and love. Be safe.”
“Spike and I have crossed paths many times over the years, obviously I’m a huge fan, and now finally here was an opportunity for us to work together,” Byrne said. “I am absolutely thrilled with the result. The Broadway show was a wonderful challenge as well as an opportunity — it was a joy to perform and, well, best to let the quotes speak for themselves. Thrilled that this show and the subjects it addresses will now reach a wider audience.”
The production featured Byrne singing songs from throughout his career, including several of Talking Heads’ popular favorites, alongside an 11-person ensemble that danced and carried its instruments around the stage rather than staying stationary. Lee employed 11 camera operators to capture the production’s many moving parts.
The set list each night included “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” several selections from Byrne’s American Utopia solo album, and a rendition of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout,” which featured Byrne and the musicians calling out the names of black Americans who have been unjustly killed with the refrains “say his name” or “say her name.”
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Byrne recalled approaching Monáe about permission to use the song. “She loved it,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. There was no hesitation. She’s very generous. So I continue to ask her, ‘We’re doing it on Broadway now. You sure you’re OK with all this?’ ‘Yeah.’ I thought I had to do that; I had to check with her and see what her take was on that, because otherwise, it could seem pretty strange. She’s about getting the message out.”