Sunday 15 January 2017

Celebrating David Bowie

Following a full day of activities at the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was time to head off for  a very special concert: Celebrating David Bowie at the O2 Academy, Brixton.

This was part of a very short tour which would go on to New York, California, Australia and Japan. Featuring Gary Oldman and a core band of Bowie luminaries including Mike Garson, Gail Ann Dorsey, Earl Slick, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard plus a galaxy of drummers, a choir, an orchestra and numerous special guest stars.

The seats were unreserved in the circle so it meant queuing for a long time outside the O2. As the torrential rain fell without pause, I noticed  number of large rats scurrying around in the residential carpark to my left. Beggars frequently held out their bowls as they made their way up and down the queues. The tube strike had started, making the journey back to King's Cross problematic. My thoughts at this point were unquestionably selfish: This had better be a great gig.

The O2 was packed to the rafters and there was a heavy sense of expectation. Everyone was there for a good time, to experience a true celebration of the music of David Bowie, on what would have been his 70th birthday.

The show certainly did not disappoint as a cavalcade of stars took us on a musical journey lasting just a little under three hours. It was a unique experience, as the touring personnel will change as the show moves around the world.

The images below should help to convey some of the highlights of a wonderful evening.

Gary Oldman opened the show with Dead Man Walking
Gaby Moreno's Five Years was undoubtedly one of the evening's highlights
The legendary Mike Garson
La Roux guested on Golden Years
Bernard Fowler powered his way through several songs, including Rebel Rebel
Earl Slick in full flow

Young Americans, with Gail Ann Dorsey and Steve Norman
Angelo Moore perhaps controversially announced himself as 'Nigger Stardust.'
Def Leppard's Joe Elliott
Changes featured Tony Hadley 
Holly Palmer gave us Lady Grinning Soul

Space Oddity saw Gail Ann Dorsey return to vocal duties

The first encore song saw Catherine Russell and Gerry Leonard duetting on Loving the Alien
Let's Dance with Simon Le Bon 

Full stage!

This brings to an end my week of Bowie-related articles.

Here are links to the rest of the series.

The Beginning of an End

Standing by the Wall

Waiting for the Gift Of...

I've Got Drama, Can't Be Stolen

Holy Holy

Saturday 14 January 2017

Holy Holy

I never saw David Bowie in concert but I did see one of the Spiders from Mars when Woody Woodmansey brought his Holy Holy group to The Lexington on Pentonville Road back in December 2014.

The blurb at the time had this to say about Holy Holy:

'Supergroup Holy Holy play the songs of David Bowie from 1969 to 1973. Formed to play Latitude Festival in 2013, the stellar line-up includes Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman, Generation X guitarist James Stevenson, Rumer collaborator Malcolm Doherty, Brian Eno/Ian Dury pianist Rod Melvin, Mick Ronson's daughter Lisa, his sister Maggi and niece Hannah. On drums will be a very special appearance from one of the original Spiders from Mars, legendary drummer Woody Woodmansey.'

There are various incarnations of Holy Holy. The big venues usually see Glenn Gregory and Tony Visconti in action too, but on this night, tucked away in a small room upstairs at The Lexington, it was a much more intimate affair and a fabulously entertaining evening.

It had been announced that Steve Norman would be unable to attend due to rehearsals for the 2015 Spandau Ballet tour, but after a few songs he emerged from a side door, saxophone in hand, big smile on face, and then the party really started...

Woody Woodmansey - the last of the Spiders from Mars

Steve Norman on sax

Terry Edwards playing two saxophones at once
Set list
Holy Holy are touring this year. Head for their official website for further details.

Thursday 12 January 2017

I've Got Drama, Can't Be Stolen

David Bowie's highly productive final year brought not only one of his finest albums - the remarkable Blackstar, complete with fabulous videos for the singles of Blackstar and Lazarus - but also a Lazarus stage play.

Lazarus is based partly on The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Trevis which was made into a film starring, of course, David Bowie.

The stage version, written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, adopts key elements from The Man Who Fell to Earth and numerous Bowie songs to weave a different story about Thomas Newton, the starman isolated on Earth who is desperately trying to find a way back to his extraterrestrial family.

Lazarus moved from New York to London's King's Cross Theatre for December 2016 - January 2017.

I saw it in December 2016 and throughly enjoyed the experience. The performances were strong, the songs well-chosen (Valentine's Day was a particular highlight) and the storyline laced with ambiguity. I would recommend that anyone who is thinking of going to see Lazarus should do so armed with at least a working knowledge of The Man Who Fell to Earth, or run the risk of being completely lost in a confusing tale. This most certainly not a Bowie version of Mamma Mia.

This trailer gives a little indication as to what to expect.

The next video features Sophia Anne Caruso singing Life on Mars.

The evening performance on Sunday 15 January will be filmed for posterity and - hopefully - a Blu-ray and/or DVD release.

For further details, head for the official Lazarus website.

Further Bowie-related material will follow here over the course of the next few days...

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Waiting For The Gift Of...

The Victoria and Albert museum in Kensington will be forever linked with David Bowie. Their David Bowie is exhibition of 2013 was hugely popular and is currently on tour. It will spend the next four months in Tokyo before heading to Spain.

The exhibition enjoyed unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive and was a massive success.

They also made a film to accompany the exhibition, which hit the cinema screens in 2013.

The V and A extended their association last Sunday with a day of special events to mark what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday.

Celebrating Bowie at 70 featured Matt Wolf in conversation with Simon Sladen on the Lazarus play, Jonathan Barnbrook discussing his design work on Bowie's last four albums with Victoria Broackes and Nicholas Pegg discussing the new edition of his book, The Complete David Bowie, with Geoffrey Marsh.

There were four communal choir sessions (three rehearsals and a performance) throughout the day, during which Sam Coates coached us all on the art of singing Life on Mars, Space Oddity and Heroes. This proved to be - quite unexpectedly! - the highlight of the day. I had previously never taken part in anything like this but entered fully into the spirt of the occasion and thoroughly enjoyed the liberating experience.

The day concluded with a showing of the David Bowie is happening now film, which some of us had to miss due to the tube strike making it difficult to fit everything in before heading off to Brixton for the celebration gig (about which more later).

Celebrating Bowie at 70 was a great success and there is already take of the V and A holding a similar event at the same time next year.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Standing By The Wall

When the artist Jimmy C painted the famous Bowie mural back in 2013, I'm sure nobody suspected it would become a shrine just three years later.

The wall, situated in Brixton (Bowie's home town), is very easy to find, as it is just across the road from the tube station.

After Bowie's death in 2016, the wall became a focal point for the immense outpouring of grief felt by a huge amount of people, all of whom had their lives touched - to a greater or lesser extent - by the  music and art of the Starman.

The wall is an incredible and powerful place. Hundreds of handwritten messages mingled with cards and flowers when I first visited there last year.

The flowers were cleared shortly afterwards, but have since returned in force.

The first series of images are all from 2016.

I visited the wall again last weekend on my way to see the Celebrating David Bowie gig at the Brixton O2 (about which much more later).

Despite the torrential rain, the wall was especially busy due to the gig clientele and the fact that it would have been Bowie's 70th birthday on that very day.

The following images are from last Sunday.
Look carefully to see the milk and peppers

A fitting conclusion
There will be more Bowie-related blogs over the next few days, so stay tuned...