Over the weekend, pop singer Rufus Wainwright staged If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway, an “evening of love duets” at Toronto’s Luminato Festival. The event, conceived by Wainwright and music director Stephen Oremus, consisted of love songs from Broadway musicals “performed exclusively by men and to men.” As spotted by Stereogum, the show’s finale found Wainwright enlisting David Byrne, Boy George, Josh Groban and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, among others, to perform one of the most popular Broadway love songs: Grease‘s “Summer Nights.”
While Wainwright and singer Brennan Hall’s end-song a capella stands as the best showcase of the group’s vocal abilities, it’s hard to not pinpoint Byrne, standing mid-group in a shiny, green suit and asking the group, “Tell me more. Tell me more,” as the performance highlight.
This isn’t, however, the most unusual cover Byrne’s tackled this year. In February, the former Talking Heads frontman took on Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” to spotlight the United States policy of not paying artists for radio airplay. “Mr. Markie didn’t write that tune (although he did probably write the rap),” Byrne wrote before the show. “The drum and keyboard loop was lifted from a Freddie Scott recording, but the song was written by Gamble and Huff, the great songwriting team that wrote for the O’Jays and the Spinners. So chances are Biz Markie didn’t see any royalties from all the radio play that song got.”