David Byrne Discusses Modifying ‘American Utopia’ Show & More On ‘Seth Meyers’

The musician also revealed why suits and barefeet were the wardrobe choice for his Broadway musical.

By Scott Bernstein Jan 4, 2022 12:29 pm PST

David Byrne was among the guests on Monday’s episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers. Byrne explained how the modified version of his American Utopia show came together, discussed the wardrobe he wears during the Broadway musical, his artwork and more.

Dubbed American Utopia: Unchained, the altered production featuring a different setlist was presented between December 28 and January 2. “Like a lot of shows, we had a couple of people who tested positive [for COVID-19] and had to go out and they were covered by understudies. And then more and then more and then more until half the cast and some of the crew was out as well and we couldn’t do the show anymore,” the former Talking Heads frontman explained. “Some of us talked amongst ourselves and said ‘Well, maybe we can do an unplugged kinda thing. We’ll do some other songs. Some catalog songs, some Talking Heads songs, whatever. And just see if the audience wants to hear that.'”

The cast and crew wanted to give an option to those who came from out of town over the holidays. American Utopia: Unchained didn’t include choreography. “You can get your money back or you can take what’s behind the curtain,” Byrne quipped. “I think audiences really liked it. It was not slick and perfect. There were times when I had to stop and ask the band, ‘Who starts this song?’ But the audience loved that,” added the 69-year-old musician.

Seth Meyers, who today revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 and canceled the rest of this week’s shows, then asked David Byrne how he came up with the idea of wearing grey suits and performing barefoot for American Utopia. “It was very practical. I thought suits would kind of make everyone look sort of attractive and almost like one size fits all. Everybody could look decent in a suit, women and men,” Byrne responded. The lighting director requested the use of grey suits while the bare feet came to keep things a bit casual.

David Byrne also shared memories of living in New York City during the 1970s when NYC was much grimier. Finally, Byrne talked about his forthcoming book of illustrations, A History of the World (In Dingbats). “It [was all] created during the pandemic. As I think happened to a lot of people during the pandemic we were sometimes prohibited from doing the things that we normally do,” said Byrne. “Some of us took up cooking or making bread and I started drawing. To some extent I think the drawings kind of reflected the turmoil that was going through not just my head but I assume other peoples’ heads too.”

Watch David Byrne’s appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers below:

Loading band summary

JamBase Collections