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 #30

The Viewing Gum Listening Post hits the big THREE OH. Welcome to VGLP30 which will serve as the final regular playlist of 2015. Coming by the end of the month (or perhaps early 2016) will include my regular Best of the Year articles, and with them accompanying playlists. So do follow me on Spotify, Twitter and the like to access them as soon as they appear. The year is running out of steam yet (and there are some singles here from some much awaited albums in the new year too, so plenty to look forward to in 2016).

Stream below or click here to hear all dem songs..

 

  1. Hot Chip – Dancing In The Dark
  2. Neon Indian – Annie
  3. Missy Elliott – WTF (Where They From) [feat. Pharrell Williams]
  4. Santigold – Can’t Get Enough Of Myself (feat B.C)
  5. Grimes – World Princess part II
  6. André Bratten – Philistine
  7. Eagles of Death Metal – Save A Prayer
  8. Savages – T.I.W.Y.G.
  9. Field Music – The Noisy Days Are Over (Single Version)
  10. Ghostface Killah, BadBadNotGood – Ray Gun (feat. DOOM)
  11. Guy Garvey – Electricity
  12. David Bowie – Blackstar

Viewing Gum Listening Post #23

Viewing Gum Listening Post #23, and the last of the standard playlists of the year. But fret ye not, for it is a doozy, with returning favourites from past installments, plus a few newcomers thrown in for fun. Next up will be my customary Songs of the Year (expect a couple of these to make an appearance) and Soundtracks of the Year playlists, but until then, enjoy VGLP23, as all the cool kids are calling it, by clicking here or streaming through the embed below.


  1. Kero Kero Bonito – Build It Up
  2. The Dø – Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy
  3. TV On The Radio – Careful You
  4. The 2 Bears – Not This Time
  5. Röyksopp – Skulls
  6. David Bowie – ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore
  7. Last Ex – Girl Seizure
  8. Museum Of Love – FATHERS
  9. Young Fathers – DIP
  10. Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Old Odeon
  11. Mark Lanegan Band – Harvest Home
  12. Clark – Everlane

Viewing Gum Listening Post #15

This is it. The last Viewing Gum Listening Post of 2013. That is, of course, until my Albums of the Year list (and associated playlist), and potentially a Soundtracks list too (sort of depends how many I can muster the enthusiasm to talk about).  The bigger and better releases are starting to dry up as we enter the month in which the compilation is king (and the yuletide golden oldies take their place in retail establishments across the world), so we’ve got a few older tracks here too to beef up some of the newer ones (and some familiar faces from previous VGLPs even then). But there’s still much to enjoy in the next 12 tracks/40 minutes! Have fun, party down, and stay safe out there in Spotifyland y’all!

 

  1. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
  2. RJD2 – Behold, Numbers!
  3. David Bowie – Atomica
  4. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – 7TH FLOOR
  5. The Flaming Lips – Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy
  6. Groundislava – Final Impasse
  7. Oneohtrix Point Never – Chrome Country
  8. Sébastien Tellier – L’amour naissant II
  9. Best Coast – Fear of My Identity
  10. Young Knives – Score
  11. Josephine Foster – No One’s Calling Your Name
  12. Aretha Franklin – One Step Ahead

Viewing Gum Listening Post #9

YEESH! I mean, damn, that new Spotify update is a little bit of one step forward, two steps back, no? I mean, it was inevitable they would try to make it all super sociable, where everyone is sharing music with everyone. Yes, I understand that sounds stupid coming from someone actively asking people to listen to his playlists and share them (and if you like ’em, subscribe, tell your friends, recommend me stuff I’d like based on what you hear here!), but I’d rather do it through external channels rather than having it all integrated into the player itself. And I usually hate people who complain about software updates. Look what you’ve done Spotify – I have become someone I hate!

Ah, never mind! It’s not actually that bad, I’ll get used to it, yadda yadda yadda. PLAYLIST TIME! Lots of fun stuff here – new stuff from old artists, old stuff from old artists, new stuff from new artists, no old stuff from new artists though. Damn. Missed a trick. All good though! Stream below, or click here, or just look at the list below and imagine what it would all sound like based purely on the names of the songs and singers. Go on. Imagine.

 

  1. PVT – Shiver
  2. Post War Years – All Eyes
  3. Foals – Inhaler
  4. Phoenix – Entertainment
  5. Shugo Tokumaru – Katachi
  6. Muddy Waters – Tom Cat
  7. David Bowie – I’ll Take You There
  8. Scott Walker – Jackie
  9. Woodkid – The Great Escape
  10. John Grant – You Don’t Have To
  11. Atoms For Peace – Default
  12. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – We No Who U R

Viewing Gum Listening Post #8

Ready those eardrums, for the Viewing Gum Listening Post is back! After a brief spell dipping into Best of Compilations for Music of 2012 and Soundtracks of 2012, normal service has resumed. Well, I say normal, but the January new release lull sees this edition more bolstered than usual by older tracks, as well as those that just plum slipped me by or haven’t found their way on to a playlist yet. So alongside new material from old hands Eels and David Bowie (!) and relative up-and-comers such as Darwin Deez and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, I’ve dropped in classics from Echo and the Bunnymen, Public Image Limited and even Shirley Bassey. Eclectic just don’t do it justice.

So here it is! Clicky to open or stream below. And it’s just in time too, as it seems like every band or musician I like has got an album landing imminently, so expect more Listening Posts throughout 2013, which is shaping up to be a real sonic doozy already.

 

  1. The Hickey Underworld – Blonde Fire
  2. Eels – New Alphabet
  3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – One At A Time
  4. Matthew E. White – Big Love
  5. Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen
  6. Echo and the Bunnymen – The Cutter
  7. Dutch Uncles – Flexxin
  8. Darwin Deez – Redshift
  9. Public Image Limited – The Order of Death
  10. Simian Ghost – Be My Wife
  11. David Bowie – Where Are We Now?
  12. Shirley Bassey – Excuse Me

Viewing Gum Listening Post #2

Welcome to the second instalment of my Viewing Gum Listening Post Spotify playlists. Same as before, it’s a mix of old and new, home and abroad, classics and curios, but just a cross-section of some of the songs I’ve been listening to, well, since the last one. Give it a listen!

VIEWING GUM LISTENING POST #2

  1. The Dø – Dust It Off
  2. Dirty Projectors – Gun Has No Trigger
  3. Django Django – Hail Bop
  4. The Shoes – Time to Dance
  5. Hot Chip – Night And Day
  6. Air – Sonic Armada
  7. Dr. John – Kingdom of Izzness
  8. David Bowie – Black Country Rock
  9. The Clash – Hateful
  10. The Cribs – Come On, Be A No-One
  11. Squeeze – Up The Junction
  12. Rufus Wainwright – Out Of The Game
  13. Best Coast – How They Want Me To Be
  14. Keaton Henson – You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are

In other news, the latest edition of my Japanese music podcast Tokyo Soundscape has also just made its way online, so why not stick that on your portable music device and enjoy music from the likes of Base Ball Bear, The Polka Dot Fire Brigade, Sexy Synthesizer and a host of other acts with silly names. While you’re there, I also recommend listening to Nordorama, which has a host of great tunes from Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and the like.