Major Tom Smiled Down From the Heavens Last Night
Celebrating David Bowie @ The Plaza Live, Orlando 3/15/18
Back in late 1972 or early 1973, Pat Galvin gave my dad a David Bowie record, “Space Oddity,” to give to me, because he didn't care for it very much, so he thought I should give it a try.
In no way could I ever have imagined then how that album would have affected the next 45 years of my artistic and personal life.
I instantly loved every track on the record! To my 12-year-old ears it was an amazing departure from the saccharine bubblegum pop I'd been listening to for the previous 12 years. The honesty, the soul, the emotion totally blew me away. The rawness of Bowie singing and the quirkiness of the lyrics were unbelievable. In short order I would collect every album that was available to that point, and in the next couple years, of course there would be the most amazing mid-’70s output by this chameleon like ... artist. Yes, that's what I said: artist. I instantly recognized that this “Ziggy” guy was not your average rock star.
It didn't take long for David Bowie to become my favorite recording artist, but the strange (and heartbreaking) thing is - I've been to well over a thousand concerts in my lifetime, and I never did get to see my hero David Bowie. It was just never in the cards I guess.
So imagine how excited I was about a year-and-a-half ago, when I heard that many of the musicians who played alongside David we're going to do a series of tribute concerts! I was actually in Los Angeles last year, and was not able to attend one of the first performances of the band (making me feel like I might not ever see this band either), but I watched the show live online that night, and was completely sold!
Well, I'm pleased to say that the wait is over! I had the pleasure of witnessing “Celebrating David Bowie” last night at The Plaza Live in Orlando. Wow, what an evening. Two solid hours of my personal favorite David Bowie songs! The band consisted of former Bowie band mates Mike Garson on piano, the great Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard on guitars, the incomparable Carmine Rojas on bass guitar, and Earl Slick's son Lee John Madeloni rounded out the band on drums.
On vocals was the amazing Bernard Fowler (Rolling Stones backup singer for the past 30 years) who sang lead on most of the songs this evening, starting with “Bring me the Disco King” (an odd choice I thought) certainly the most obscure track of the evening, from Bowie's 2003 album “Reality”. This song would also be the only song from David’s catalog that was released after 1985 to be played tonight. Following the quirky opener Bernard and band quickly ripped into stellar of versions of “Rebel Rebel”, “Moonage Daydream”and ”Fame”.
Guest singer Joe Sumner, son of rock star Sting, took the lead on a number of tunes and played acoustic guitar throughout is the show. I've never been a particularly huge fan of The Police (Sorry Joe!) or Sting, but I tell you what, his son knocks it out of the park! My God the vocals on this guy, unbelievable. Joe was particularly incredible on “Space Oddity,” “Let's Dance,” “Sorrow” and “All the Young Dudes”! I can't wait to hear his own recordings.
The night’s other guest was British singer and producer Mr. Hudson who is extremely talented in his own right. He sang a handful of the classics as well, beginning with a very bouncy “Changes.” Other highlights by Mr. Hudson this evening included “Ziggy Stardust” and an incredible, and moving “Five Years”!
Mike Garson, who began playing piano for David Bowie on his first American tour (and subsequently on his albums), also played for Bowie on his final tour, and many in between! A real treat of the evening for me was to witness Mister Garson play piano on “Aladdin Sane” and “Life on Mars” live.
Strangely I'm not so familiar with Gerry Leonard, but his playing last night was outstanding, I have lots to find out about him.
But I am very familiar with Earl Slick! I was commenting earlier in the day to my buddy Rocky, that I thought Slick had more swagger than Keith Richards! I may have been right! Slick came out rocking to “Rebel Rebel,” and he gave us an amazing “Rock and Roll Suicide,” but he really kicked everybody's ass with an astounding “Station to Station” that surely had The Thin White Duke smiling.
These songs just hit the core of my favorite Bowie era. The tune that I was surprised but delighted, to hear was the beautiful and haunting “Lady Grinning Soul” also from 1973’s “Aladdin Sane.”
They wrapped up the evening with an electrifying “Heroes,” a song just as powerful and moving as it's ever been. You could almost close your eyes and see David in the room. These folks, these performers, THEY are the HEROES for keeping David Bowie's music alive.
In my opinion, so far this is, without a doubt, the most exciting show on the road this year! With a loose setlist, and a rotating cast of guest artists, I wish these folks all the best, and hope they keep going for years to come!
Many thanks to Mike Garson, Earl Slick and the band, my friends at The Plaza Live, and AEG Presents for all their help!