LIVE REVIEW: Celebrating David Bowie, 8th January 2017

The climax of "Heroes" - yes, from a bit way back

The climax of “Heroes” – yes, from a bit way back

I didn’t do a best of 2016 post on this blog this year (you can get a Spotify playlist here, and check out my Letterboxd list for films if you like), as it just seemed too hard to try and put into words everything that happened when the past twelve months were overshadowed. I was one of those types who responded with the news of David Bowie’s death that Monday morning by listening to his music back-to-back on the radio, eyes filled with tears. From such great lows came the highs of finding solace but also joy in his extensive – and right-up-to-the-moment – catalogue of music (few other artists could fill the airwaves for so long with such a variety of music, not just his own work, but artists with which he collaborated, produced, championed), and getting to be part of the grassroots GlastonBowie tribute at the Glastonbury Festival last year.

And then came the announcement of the Celebrating David Bowie concerts. With the promise of key members of Bowie’s touring band and frequent collaborators, taking place in his birthplace of Brixton, and on what would have been his 70th birthday, it would be as appropriate a tribute as could be mustered. But it was unclear what shape or form it would take beyond “Bowie People Performing Bowie Music Bowie Style”? In the end, it was very much a big old birthday bash, often ramshackle and free-wheeling but heartfelt and sincere – and all for a good fund-raising cause, Children & The Arts.

With longest-serving member present (and de facto MC) Mike Garson performing a piano overture to begin, when the first singer appeared on stage, I had a heart flutter. Was that DAVID BOWIE? Alive?! A micro-second later, reality kicked in, and then it became apparent it was none other than Gary Oldman. But dressed in attire not a million-miles-away from Bowie’s recent sartorial choices, in a fetching hat/glasses/scarf combo, and with a passing resemblance from afar, for a brief moment, it was like Bowie had joined us. Appropriate then that Oldman was singing a rather decent acoustic version of Dead Man Walking. The show then kicked off in earnest, leading to almost three hours of Bowie…without Bowie.

I mean, come on, it does look a bit like him.

I mean, come on, it does look a bit like him.

Given its rotating roster of performers on stage and perhaps lack of time for rehearsal, it was an audio technician’s nightmare, and the sound mix was indeed mixed. At different points, backing vocals overpowered lead vocals, strings were seen but not heard, and Sound and Vision made me wonder some times about whether they should’ve even bothered. Bowie himself didn’t always stick to the album inlay when it came to lyrics, so the odd swapped or repeated line was forgiven, but sometimes the guest vocalists completely lost their hold on the songs, the band having to play around them until they caught up or brought things to a halt. In these instances, Bowie’s absence and the lack of a leader was most pronounced, having hoped for at least some visual representation of him on screen or banner, if not even isolated vocals for at couple numbers (it didn’t help that special guests were barely introduced – hence having to look up the names of most of the non-super-famous or Bowie band regulars after the fact). Poor La Roux looked the part, and danced a neat dance, but ended up stranded in the loops of Golden Years. Bernard Fowler’s Rebel Rebel was a shaky start, but he made up for it with solid renditions of Diamond Dogs and Stay. For the big sing-a-longs of Life on Mars? and Starman, Tom Chaplin of Keane and Mr Hudson respectively probably were thankful for the crowd’s contribution lest they ended up similarly muted.

There were some great moments from the vocalists though, reminding us that as great as Bowie was as a performer, there’s much to savour in other interpretations of his work. Fishbone’s Angelo Moore made the biggest play for borrowing (not stealing) Bowie’s crown, not through mimicry in any sense, but by channeling Bowie’s approach to weirdo theatricality via Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and/or Baron Samedi, offered hugely entertaining renditions of Moonage Daydream and Ashes to Ashes. Gaby Moreno’s Five Years was an early highlight, while Holly Palmer added a hint of smokiness to Lady Grinning Soul, rendering it positively Bond theme-ian, as well as a haunting rendition of Where Are We Now?, the only (somewhat disappointingly, but understandably) contribution from this century. Otherwise, the setlist was representative and comprehensive as one could realistically expect, though ending the encore on Under Pressure seemed to dilute the theme of the evening just a touch. The big guns as far as guests came were Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon leading Let’s Dance – a decent match of singer to song (and period of Bowie’s career) – while Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley’s Changes was near faultless. Though it was Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott who seemed to make the most of his appearances, great versions of All The Young Dudes and Suffragette City (the first song Def Leppard ever performed together apparently, factoid fans).

But the real stars were the Bowie band, and when those big rocking numbers came, they delivered. Earl Slick relished his guitar solos, Garson’s piano a driving force as much as responsible for those wonderful melodies, and much applause offered for Gail Ann Dorsey’s contributions on bass as well as vocals – especially Young Americans and Space Oddity. It was the love for these magnificent musicians and the shared love of everyone in the room for Bowie and his music that really made the occasion feel special and charged the atmosphere. When the sound was operating at full capacity, the crowd were singing, and the band were rocking, it felt like the best shot anyone gathered would have to experiencing a Bowie concert once more – or for the first time, in my experience in any case.

Viewing Gum Listening Post #35

  1. Ezra Furman – Teddy I’m Ready
  2. Martha – Christine
  3. Rival Sons – Tied Up
  4. Local Natives – Psycho Lovers
  5. PREP – Cheapest Flight
  6. METAFIVE – Maisie’s Avenue
  7. The Divine Comedy – Napoleon Complex
  8. Beyond The Wizards Sleeve – Creation
  9. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
  10. Adrian Younge – Magic Music
  11. Swet Shop Boys – T5
  12. M.I.A. – A.M.P. (All My People)
  13. Lizzo – Phone
  14. Crystal Castles – Ornament
  15. Tobacco – Gods in Heat
  16. White Lies – Hold Back Your Love
  17. Mystery Jets – Blood Red Balloon
  18. Wilco – Nope
  19. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Air Lyndhurst String Orchestra, Anthony Weeden – A Song For Europa
  20. Róisín Murphy – Whatever

Viewing Gum Listening Post #34

  1. Justice – Safe and Sound
  2. Todd Terje & The Olsens – Firecracker
  3. Compton White – Track 2
  4. The Strokes – OBLIVIUS
  5. Spring King – Detroit
  6. Bat For Lashes – Sunday Love
  7. Mitski – Fireworks
  8. Alexis Taylor – So Much Further To Go
  9. Christine and the Queens – Tilted
  10. Rival Consoles – Lone
  11. Floating Points – Argenté
  12. MSTRKRFT – Morning of the Hunt

Viewing Gum Listening Post #33

Viewing Gum Listening Post the 33rd! And a bumper edition it is too! Listen here, or just stream below.

 

 

  1. DJ Shadow – Nobody Speak (feat. Run the Jewels)
  2. Metronomy – Old Skool
  3. Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend
  4. Kero Kero Bonito – Lipslap
  5. Wild Beasts – Get My Bang
  6. M83 – Walkaway Blues (feat. Jordan Lawlor)
  7. Shock Machine – Shock Machine
  8. Garbage – Empty
  9. Melt Yourself Down – The God Of You
  10. PJ Harvey – The Ministry of Defence
  11. ANHONI – Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth?
  12. Jarvis Cocker – Theme from ‘Likely Stories’
  13. Tim Hecker – Collapse Sonata
  14. Radiohead – Burn the Witch

Viewing Gum Listening Post #32

Another month, another Viewing Gum Listening Post! Yes, don’t I know it. I have proper features in the offing, I promise! Anyway, listen to right here, or just stream below.

In the meantime, in non-music news, why not check out my movie-related stuff, namely my Letterboxd account I’ve been updating, as well as my Japanese movie programme Tumblr, EIGAGAGA?

 

  1. Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
  2. Mr. Oizo – Hand in the Fire (feat. Charli XCX)
  3. Shonen Knife – Rock’n’roll T-Shirt
  4. Weezer – Wind In Our Sail
  5. Iggy Pop – Break Into Your Heart
  6. Charles Bradley – Good to Be Back Home
  7. Anchorsong – Mother
  8. Emmy The Great – Social Halo
  9. Disasterpeace – The Mirror in the Attic
  10. MMOTHS – Body Studies
  11. Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm – 00:26

Viewing Gum Listening Post #31

It’s been two months, but the first Viewing Gum Listening Post for 2016 (and the thirty-first overall) is ready for you to listen to right here, or just stream below. Various factors delayed its collation, but perhaps of most significant relevance was the passing of David Bowie, which prompted a fairly typical response from his devoted followers worldwide of absorbing as much of his incredibly vast and varied work for a goodly time. There are few artists who could very easily fill days of radioplay but thanks to Bowie’s ability to inspire as well as be inspired, to collaborate, to produce, to write, to make guest appearances, to follow music as well as be followed by other musicians, to cross genres – well, there was much material to savour during my hefty Bowie binge.  I updated my 21st Century Bowie playlist recently, which can be listened to here.

I’m still not over it, and it will colour the rest of the year – and years – to come. But seeking out new interesting music was something he championed, and so the Listening Posts must go on!

 

 

  1. Yeasayer – I Am Chemistry
  2. The Crookes – The World Is Waiting
  3. RAT BOY – MOVE
  4. Field Music – Disappointed
  5. Sunflower Bean – Easier Said
  6. Fruit Bats – From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town
  7. The Besnard Lakes – The Bray Road Beast
  8. Daughter – Doing the Right Thing
  9. Animal Collective – FloriDada
  10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits
  11. Shlomo – Druid Caravan of Smoke

 

2015: Music of the Year

As much as I love music and seeing music being performed live and sharing the music I like with people, it’s finally dawned on me that I actually suck at writing about it. I have no sense of how to describe how something sounds, and my working knowledge of terminology, or coming up with comparisons, or even placing bands or songs into subgenres, is pretty ropey. It’s a pain to write, it’s not entertaining to read, so let’s cut to the chase, and present – largely without comment – my favourite albums released this year.

1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

I will just say something about this, out of all the gigs I saw this year (admittedly not many, but some good stuff at Glastonbury, Future Islands/Beck/The Strokes at Hyde Park, Garbage at Brixton Academy…), Sufjan Stevens at Royal Festival Hall was a highlight. Impeccably performed renditions of the latest album, but when Sufjan finally got chatting with the crowd, what could have been a beautiful but sombre occasion became filled with remarkable levity, cracking jokes, fluffing lines as he got the giggles. And to cap it off, a finale that made full use of the venue’s pipe organ filled the hall with a swirling rumble that felt like a UFO landing. Extraordinary and memorable.

2. Grimes – Art Angels
3. The Dø – Shake Shook Shaken
4. FFS – FFS
5. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense
6. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
7. The Go! Team – The Scene Between
8. John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
9. Tame Impala – Currents
10. Lianne La Havas – Blood

And what with a music wrap-up be without one of my Viewing Gum Listening Posts? Largely compiled from my VGLP playlists, this bumper edition will hopefully in the grand tradition offer a little something for everyone. Stream below or click here.

 

 

And that’s not all, for in my occasional duty as resident DJ of GamerDisco, I also listen to a lot of chiptune, synthwave, video game remixes, soundtracks and more. And so I also compile a Spotify playlist with some of the best tracks that you might hear at our events. Please enjoy!