(Robert Sandall's article appeared in The Times of London, 2/21.)

Imelda Marcos gets the Evita treatment

David Byrne is dependably quizzical; in conversation it often feels as though he’s interviewing himself. Questions hover; quite tricky ones on this occasion, as Byrne has devoted five years to composing and recording Here Lies Love, a “song cycle” of 22 songs about the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. Yes, really. It’s been the most time-consuming project of Byrne’s long and busy career so far, and it sure needs some explaining.

Talking to him is an oddly impersonal experience, almost disorientatingly so. He thinks he might suffer from Asperger’s. I’ve met him half a dozen times but there’s never a flicker of recognition. He avoids direct eye contact, stares intently into the middle distance, lapses into unexplained silences at odd moments and starts giggling for no obvious reason. Onstage and off, he’s curiously distant. It seems perfectly apt that his girlfriend should be the photographer Cindy Sherman, who makes eccentric, disguised self-portraits. He has a teenage daughter, Malu, by a previous relationship with a half-Japanese costume designer, and Japanese is very much his style: inscrutable and strictly self-contained.

Imelda Marcos is as notorious for her shoe fetish as for her tyranny. Now David Byrne is making a musical about her with Fatboy Slim. Will she be the next Evita?

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