David Byrne is nearly sixty years old, and he’s been in the music industry for almost forty of those years. He doesn’t need to be dancing like a fool on stage, or wearing a tutu. People know him, and they respect his work. So why does he do it? This is the question that the concert film Ride, Rise, Roar attempts to answer. Following the creation and birth of his latest tour, the fusion of dance and music that was The Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour, the film looks at the rehearsal process and also talks to Byrne’s band members, the dancers and choreographers as well as Byrne himself.
The actual film is more or less a straightforward live concert film, but is more notable than most because of the choreography of the show. It’s not often that a funk-rock band employs dancers to interpret the songs via modern dance, and this is what makes this tour worthy of being recorded for posterity. There’s a lot of fuzzy, artsy language – ‘It felt very circular to me, so I worked from that’ – but it’s genuinely interesting to see how much work goes into putting on such a sparse-looking show. There’s no special effects, no explosions or wonderful light show, just the band and the dancers. It’s also great to see how involved Byrne actually gets with the choreography, swinging his hips and even at one point finding himself on the receiving end of a leapfrog. It shows that he’s still not, after almost forty years, bored with recording and performing music and is, in fact, constantly striving for new ways to present music to an audience that clearly adores him.
You don’t need to be a fan of modern dance, and you don’t really need to know the work of David Byrne to enjoy this film – all that’s needed is an open mind. That said, if you find him irritating in any way then this film might be the worst 87 minutes imaginable – this is Byrne in full rock star mode, squealing and shouting all over the place.