12 January 2019 (gig)
15 January 2019
Almost exactly three years to the day since the Starman tragically passed, David Bowie’s band alumni tour is the perfect celebration. It’s not a covers band. It’s Bowie’s actual band.
Anchored by Mike Garson on keys, Bowie’s longest standing band member with bragging rights of one thousand live shows and 20 albums to go with, it’s the closest thing you can get to Bowie. And close is close enough.
Observing in awe from the back of Shepherds Bush’s stalls, as 8pm hits, lights fall and hands applaud for the show’s imminent opening. I trot back to my seat spilling my beer on my suede desert boots in the process. I’m not concerned in the slightest.
Somewhat surprisingly, an instrumental version of old traditional English song ‘Greensleeves’ serves us our first taste of music for the evening. Accompanied with a brief anecdote delivered by Garson detailing how Bowie once instructed him to play this track to warm up a quarter of a million fans at Glastonbury. It’s a slightly smaller scale tonight.
‘Bring Me The Disco King’ taken from 2003’s ‘Reality’ LP follows. In truth, it’s a slow opening ten minutes. That said, Bernard Fowler’s vocals are flawless from the first note. No warm up necessary.
Lead guitarist Earl Slicks boot hits his overdrive pedal as the iconic riff for ‘Rebel Rebel’ echoes throughout. It’s the first glimpse of the audience’s vocal ability as they attempt to join in. Seemingly warm ups are necessary for us.
Joe Sumner takes lead vocals for Bowie’s breakthrough track ‘Space Oddity’. Equipped with an acoustic and a pitch perfect voice, it’s a harmonious combination.
Throughout the duration of the show, Garson acts as both curator and narrator. Not to mention his astonishing ability as a pianist. Prior to introducing Corey Glover to deliver ‘Changes’ he recounts how the track acted as his audition song back in 1971. Stopped three chords in, Bowie offered him the job. 1000 shows later and the chords have not forsaken him.
A sold out crowd of 2,000 are now in full voice as the band perform Bowie classics such as ‘Alladin Sane’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’. It’s a set packed with his most mainstream and well loved songs. The band aim to curtail the back catalogue of Britain’s most illustrious solo artist to a little over two hours. It’s an impossible task. And an admirable effort.
Following a breathtaking piano solo from Garson which achieves a standing ovation, ‘Under Pressure’ is executed effortlessly as if the song’s title is merely meaningless. What pressure?
A brief exit and a swift return gifts us two last tracks as the venue’s curfew beckons. Introduced by Garson as his most treasured Bowie composition, ‘Life On Mars’ sounds. And sounds beautiful.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening with world class musicians and vocalists concludes with ‘Heroes’. A personal favourite.
As the infamous lyric ‘We can be heroes, just for one day’ wraps up proceedings and I head for the staircase in my stained suede desert boots, I can’t help but think David Bowie is a hero. He always will be.