Before reviewing this show, I just want to say up front that I am a gigantic David Bowie fan. His unexpected death last January, one year ago from the show at Terminal 5 on Tuesday night, hit me hard. For weeks it hurt and it seemed like it would never stop. There were tributes throughout the year, but none of them seemed appropriate. I saw the Radio City Music Hall tribute, videos of Springsteen, Phish, and many other bands showing their love, but it wasn’t what was needed. The only tribute that was great last year was at The Brit Awards when his last touring band played a medley of songs for the crowd. It was great to see them together again and luckily for the Bowie fans around the world they got back together to do a tribute tour, entirely for charity, this year through the winter. Though they aren’t playing everywhere, the shows are going to cities that were important in Bowie’s life and of course New York was a must hit location.
The over three hour show featured hits and rarities from throughout David Bowie’s career. Now although his last touring band was supposed to be playing the whole show, they didn’t and it was slightly disappointing, but when they were all on stage together there was an electric feeling in the air that couldn’t be stopped. Emotions ran high both on stage and in the crowd as many wiped away tears of joy and sorrow during the concert. Many in the crowd dressed up in various Bowie face paint, beautiful outfits, or various Bowie concert shirts spanning his career. Something else that was important to Bowie was painting and Bridget Griggs showed off some painting from her upcoming exhibit Tribal Love that features her paintings inspired by the legend. She was live painting during the show itself as well, and it was a welcomed addition to the festivities.
Mike Garson, Bowie’s longtime piano player, was the MC for the evening introducing the songs being played and who was singing them. He performed a medley of songs we wouldn’t hear the rest of the night such as “Time,” “Quicksand” and “Memory of a Free Festival.” As he played the band came out and the second he was done they dove straight into “Rebel Rebel” with Bernard Fowler on lead vocals, as he would do on many songs during the show. Hearing Earl Slick play the chords for the song gives you goosebumps the minute he starts. The first major highlight of the evening was Jeremy Little coming out to blow away “The Man Who Sold the World.” His fiery vocals were akin to how Bowie sang it on the Reality Tour in 2003 and 2004. Gaby Moreno and her amazing voice drew some of the biggest crowd reactions of the night with her takes on “Five Years,” “Wild is the Wind” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” These two major Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars songs are always fan favorites and she did them more than justice. The only song covered from the last two albums of his career was “Where Are We Now?” by Holly Palmer, who owned the song. It would have been nice to get at least one Blackstar song, but since none of these musicians played on that album, it’s understandable why it was left out, but it still seemed wrong.
Bowie was also known for his theatrics and only one man during the show gave us any and it was Angelo Moore on “Ashes to Ashes” and “Moonage Daydream.” He came out in different costumes and face paint for each of the songs and referred to himself as “Nigger Stardust.” He was having the time of his life up there and his enthusiasm spread through the crowd on both of these songs. I’m sure David would have been proud of his renditions and theatrics. Another band that gave it their all were Living Colour. With a pretty much by the books take on “Suffragette City,” a shot of pure rock and roll washed over the crowd, but it was their take on “I’m Afraid of Americans” that really hit home. They took the great 90’s industrial act to heart and gave it all the grittiness it deserved. Vernon Reid’s playing on it was superb and Corey Glover’s vocals were outrageous.
Adrian Belew was on and off stage during the show, but when he was on there was another level to the playing that was taking place. He first came out to do an acoustic intro to “Live on Mars?” and got a huge reaction from the crowd before Joe Sumner took care of the vocals for the song. Belew’s guitar work was perfection on the songs he played on. “Sound and Vision” and the mash up of “DJ” and “Boys Keep Swimming” were beautiful. Gail Ann Dorsey did great justice to “Space Oddity” and “Young Americans,” but it was her rendition of “Dead Man Walking” that brought up all of the emotions from herself and the crowd. Mike Garson wowed the crowd with his wild piano solo at the end of “Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)” after Gail finished the vocals for the song and the two embraced one another after he was finished, much to the delight of the crowd.
Kate Pierson, of the B-52’s, did her best on “Golden Years” with Earl Slick egging her on during the song. It would have been nice to hear her sing more, but unfortunately it was the only song of the night she sang on. The ending of “Stay” saw Slick take is guitar to work and for the rest of the show he didn’t slow down. “Ziggy Stardust” and “Moonage Daydream” really let him loose and he was having a blast doing it. An emotional “”Heroes” anchored by Fowler but saw almost everyone from the night on stage helping with the song closed the set before the four song encore.
Mr. Hudson absolutely destroyed “All the Young Dudes” egging the crowd on to sing with him. His voice soared around Terminal 5 before the Queen collaboration of “Under Pressure” closed it out. Everyone danced out of the building to “Modern Love” blasting over the speakers. I’m happy to have witnessed this as it is being billed as the last time some of these musicians are going to be playing this music together in this way. I think Bowie would have enjoyed the evening and can only imagine he was watching on with all of us wherever he is now.
Article: Bryan Lasky