Steve Kikoen was producing and performing in the Steely Dan tribute band Deacon Blues when he was approached to cover Talking Heads music.
He assembled BIG SUIT: A Tribute to Talking Heads, a mostly young, white nine-piece band in Addison, Illinois, which energetically offered a recreation of Jonathan Demme’s iconic film of the Stop Making Sense tour, at Evanston Space on Friday, June 15, for an enthusiastic crowd of middle-aged Caucasians and some bros in backwards baseball caps.
“Maestro” Kikoen wore a tux and played lead guitar while Jason Krause sweated through the famous tan suit, both regular and big versions, while singing the David Byrne tunes (although his vocals were mostly lost in the sound mix). He mimicked but didn’t quite own Byrne’s iconic gestures and gyrations, attempting but not quite achieving the RISD art school cool.
Bubbly Jennifer Hall and Jessica Hornsten, “The Ladies,” were peppy but pale comparisons of Lynn Holt and Edna Mabry although they wore similar monochromatic onesies and shared matching Motown moves. They were joined by a rhythm section of Phil Brines, Janis Wallin and Chris Edwards, and John Kattke, Cash Michaels and Jon Hey on keys. Congas (played by “the blonde Sheila E”), a tambourine and an accordion made appearances as well.
Following the I Zimbra intro, the first few songs felt poppy and tropical, including And She Was, (Nothing But) Flowers, Road to Nowhere, and Wild Life.
Things got funkier with Slippery People and Burning Down the House (P-Funk’s Bernie Worell’s synth madness was sorely missed). The stage running from the movie accompanied Life During Wartime, which flowed into Making Flippy Floppy, Swamp, and What A Day That Was.
The vibe slowed with the sweet Naïve Melody (This Must Be the Place) then reenergized with Once in a Lifetime. As in the source material, Krause left the stage during the Tom Tom Club song Genius of Love and returned in the big suit (and a dry shirt) to sing Girlfriend is Better, then Stay Up Late and Take Me to the River.
The intermission-less set closed with Crosseyed and Painless, then Psycho Killer, with an extended internal Oye Como Va (Santana) break, confirming the group’s penchant for covers.
The audience enjoyed themselves yet the overall effect was a thin imitation of a seminal band, album and movie. Tribute bands fill a space but don’t always make a whole lot of sense.
Check out Evanston SPACE’s upcoming summer schedule including Jason Narducy on July 21, and Los Lobos on August 8.