David Byrne sticks his head out from behind a chain-mail curtain before joining his band for a rendition of Janelle Monáe’s indictment of police brutality against black people, “Hell You Talmbout,” in the teaser for his upcoming concert film, David Byrne’s American Utopia.
The movie, which Spike Lee directed, will debut on HBO Max at 8 p.m. on October 17th. It will also get a premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The ensemble gyrates and struts in the shadows in the one-minute clip, which Lee filmed during Byrne’s recent Broadway residency. The teaser also includes a voiceover of Byrne speaking about the nature of hope. “Despite all that’s happened and despite what’s still happening, there’s still possibility,” the artist says. “James Baldwin said, ‘I still believe that we can do with this country something that has not been done before.’”
American Utopia ran on Broadway from October 2019 to February of this year, and it featured Byrne speaking with the audience about the state of America. It also included performances of songs from throughout his career, going back to the first Talking Heads record up through his recent American Utopia solo album. One of the unique aspects of the show was how the musicians were able to move around the stage; the drums were all handheld, so no one was stationary.
“I realized, ‘If I can afford it, I can liberate the drums,’” Byrne told Rolling Stone last year. “It’ll mean there will be a lot more players. … Of course, I’m a fan of drumline and samba schools and second line, and all that. So I love that feeling of the whole group of musicians being able to move and make formations and do all that. It has this great feeling. So I thought, ‘If I can do that but bring it into this kind of musical context, that would be really exciting.’”