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DAVID BOWIE ALUMNI @ Perth Concert Hall gets 8.5/10


A Bowie Celebration – The David Bowie Alumni Tour
Perth Concert Hall
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

8.5/10

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over three years since David Bowie left this earth. But what an incredible legacy he left us – 27 albums over a 50+ year career – and on Tuesday it was celebrated in the best possible way.

One thing Bowie did well was surround himself with a rotating roster of talented and diverse musicians. While tribute shows can be a delicate thing, this was particularly unique as it featured past band members, session musicians and friends of Bowie who had played, recorded and toured with him over the years. Central to the group, acting as the lynchpin, orchestrator and narrator was Bowie’s longest-standing band member, keyboardist Mike Garson.


He was joined by guitarists Mark Plati and Gerry Leonard who played with Bowie in the 90s and 2000s respectively. As well as Carmine Rojas on bass, who toured with Bowie in the 80s and is responsible for the basslines on classic hits like Let’s Dance, China Girl, Modern Love. So this was not just any band, this was his band, and you’re never going to hear a better, truer tribute than this.

To sing these great songs in the great man’s absence, a superb selection of world-class vocalists were selected, taking turns to sing tracks they were best suited to, to capture all the diversity and evolution in Bowie’s music. Main man of the night was Bernard Fowler who famously tours with The Rolling Stones, and had a formidable stage presence and incredibly powerful voice. Corey Glover of Living Colour added some dynamics and flair with his amazing voice and style. Grammy-nominated Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno had some more challenging picks that she did wonders with, and a real surprise was Joe Sumner (Sting’s son) whose excited stage presence and infectious enthusiasm was only matched by his big voice, as he took on some of the big pop hits.

The Concert Hall was a fittingly grand venue, and as the diverse crowd took their seats, the lights dimmed and Garson came out to take his place behind the grand piano and keyboard to the left of stage. While he gave some brief introductions to songs and spoke a bit about Bowie, words were kept to quite a minimum, and they let the music do the talking. Similarly, there was no big visual show, or montage of Bowie pictures or video, as this would have only distracted from the music. As Fowler exclaimed, “We’re gonna have a party!”


Garson had a little interactive intro where he asked the crowd to pick four notes and then composed a piano piece on the fly – a little something to demonstrate the man’s incredible talent on the keys. Fowler was then introduced, to join Garson in a sparse and beautifully moving version of Bring Me The Disco King, which was the last song Bowie played at his last concert in Perth in 2004.

Then it was time to party – the rest of the band took the stage and kicked into Rebel Rebel and as the beat dropped, we knew we were in for a treat, with the big sound of the band full and flawless.

The three vocalists that weren’t singing lead stood at the back providing backing vocals. Fowler also delivered a great version of Fame, before Glover stepped to the front, dressed impeccably in a pink suit and hat, and blew everyone’s socks off with an awesome performance of Young Americans. Strutting the stage, working the mic stand and singing it, to be fair, better than Bowie ever could, hitting some incredible high notes at the end. It would be the first of many standing ovations.

Then it was Sumner’s turn to be introduced to a round of applause, and he stepped forward with an acoustic guitar to sing Bowie’s first hit from 1969, Space Oddity, followed by Starman. His voice really suited the more straight-up songs. “Two hours isn’t gonna be long enough for this show,” he rightfully quipped.


But they did a great job of working they way through most of Bowie’s biggest songs, along with a few more obscure, lesser-known gems. Gaby Moreno was introduced for a beautiful rendition of Five Years adding an emotional tenderness to the song’s epic outro.

Moreno stayed on as they dug a little deeper with Time from 1973’s landmark Aladdin Sane album. Then Glover was back from another impressive performance of Ashes To Ashes which included an extended keyboard solo from Garson.

Fowler came out to join Glover for the industrial thump of Bowie’s late 90s hit I’m Afraid Of Americans that was co-written by Brian Eno and featured Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Then Moreno returned for a moving version of Where Are We Now from Bowie’s second last album, 2013’s The Next Day.

This band has been touring the world for a couple of years now, so there is a real tightness and unity between them, but as Garson said, “sometimes when we play these songs we feel David enter the space… and give us a wink”. He then introduced a track he said they hadn’t played since ’74, and he remembered recording in the studio, the epic Sweet Thing/Candidate from Diamond Dogs.

It had been an incredible night, but the finish was even stronger as they stormed home with Sumner belting out Ziggy Stardust and Let’s Dance , getting everyone dancing in the aisles. Glover rocked out Suffragette City and was joined by Fowler for a brilliant duet of the classic Bowie/Queen collaboration Under Pressure.


Sumner finished off the set with a rousing, singalong of All The Young Dudes and the band left the stage, but the audience wasn’t going to let them go that easily, with huge cheers and roars for more.

Returning for an encore at first was just Leonard on guitar, and the joking Irishman donned a blonde wig to perform a solo version of Andy Warhol featuring some pretty nifty usage of a looping pedal. The wonderful evening was brought to a close with two songs everyone was waiting for – a magnificent version of Life On Mars with Fowler’s soaring voice backed only by the beautiful piano of Garson. Then the band came back out for a grand finale of Heroes, that had everyone dancing and singing along, as Fowler entered the crowd and moved up the aisle.

There is no replacing Bowie, and he is sorely missed, but this was a more than worthy tribute and celebration of his music, performed with love and passion, that you could imagine would have the Starman smiling down from above.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Linda Dunjey

 

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