The stars were out at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Friday night, 12 January, as well as a sold out audience of all ages, who’d come from everywhere to Celebrate David Bowie, 2 years and 2 days to the day of his death.
Listening to the front row, many had been Bowie fans all of their lives. One father had brought his daughter with him. She said she’s not a fan, but he assured me she would know all the songs, as she’s heard them all her life. Another man had flown in from Germany for this show. Excited chatter before it all started about various albums, what each one had, when they’d seen Bowie, for the first time, favourite songs and so on.
The crowd erupted as the ensemble came on stage, and opened with a short burst of ‘Loving The Alien’ before launching into ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, from Bowie’s penultimate studio album, ‘The Next Day’, This was followed in quick succession by ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Fame’, ‘Golden Years’, and ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’, with the team taking turns on lead vocals. They had stressed that there was no real lead singer, everyone was there to celebrate the actual star of the show, and it was clear to everyone in the building that that star was David Bowie.
The band was made up of those who had played and performed with Bowie (including the magnificent Mike Garson, who played piano and keys on no fewer than 20 of his albums), and those who’d been profoundly influenced by him. Each gave their own flavour to the songs they sang, with the very enthusiastic and energetic (and hard to photograph) Angelo Moore, from Fishbone, being a crowd favourite.
The band continued on with very little patter and a lot of singing – favourites old and new, as well as some lesser known songs from the vast Bowie catalogue. Joe Sumner, from Fiction Plane, stunned all with his renditions. Still the classics kept coming, ‘Life On Mars’ – described on the night as possibly the best song of the 20th century – ‘Starman’, ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’, and ‘Suffragette City’.
Mr Hudson, perhaps better known as a producer these days, nonetheless reminded us he has an absolute belter of a voice, and definitely won this Bowie fan over with his gorgeous voice and obvious love for the songs he was singing. His rendition of ‘Five Years’, and ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ totally moved everyone.
Paul Dempsey, lead singer of Australian band, Something For Kate, had us enthralled with the power and emotion of his vocals, while special mention must be made of Angelo “Scrote” Bundini, the man behind the idea in the first place.
Scrote smiled throughout the entire evening while holding it all together with his guitar, along with Adrian Belew, who also provided vocals for several songs, and Gerry Leonard, who was a study in quiet determination as he played all night.
As well, Mike Garson, legendary pianist, hypnotised all of us with his incredible piano playing. During ‘Aladdin Sane’ he performed an extended solo, which at times sounded like Henry Mancini, and at others like Gershwin.
All in all, everyone – from those on the stage, to those on the floor, and to those in the rafters of this historic building – had the time of their lives. My 21 year old daughter, who like the daughter in the second paragraph had grown up with Bowie’s songs (but unlike her is an avid fan), was heartily singing her lungs out all evening, and didn’t mind that I had been in the press pit for most of it.
I’ve not named every performer – sadly I didn’t catch all their names, and I know a lot of fans might think less of me by not mentioning them all by name. But I was so transfixed by it all; I found myself going back to the one Bowie concert I’d seen, in Sydney, back in 2004. I very nearly didn’t go to that one, but in retrospect I’m so glad I did, as it ended up being his final tour. The atmosphere on Friday night was similar to that evening – and possibly some of the performers were also on that stage. Yes, the one we’d all come for, wasn’t in the room – couldn’t be – or was he? His music was certainly there, and his memory lives on in all of us, both performers and fans.
Everyone was deeply touched – no less than when Mike Garson and Angelo Bundini started talking about Bowie, and how much love was at the heart of everything he did. He had wanted to change the world, and to some extent – he did. Garson proposed we co-create a song for David. He played one single note, and we all sang the word “love” on that note, while he played an improvisation around it. The effect was mesmerising.
Thirty one songs were performed in all. And I can guarantee, everyone there, loved every single one of them.
Watch the audience’s reaction as we sang ‘All The Young Dudes’:
Celebrating David Bowie continues around Europe for the remainder of January before moving on to the US on February 12. You can find out more information on their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ron Dziubla on sax.
Thank you Maria! Do you have any of the other names? – Lisa