Celebrating David Bowie – Review
Featuring musicians from different eras of David Bowie’s ever-evolving career, the Celebrating David Bowie tour did more than pay tribute to the missing legend in Las Vegas. As each song unfolded throughout the night, the band’s joyous performance offered a form of musical catharsis to the audience. Anchored by the soft-spoken Mike Garson, the rotating ensemble of gifted musicians dove into all corners of the Thin White Duke’s catalogue to create moments of technical brilliance and emotional highs that make this tour an unexpectedly moving experience that will hopefully continue well into the future.
Opening with the esoteric “Bring Me the Disco King” from Reality (2003), the band stated its mission to provide more than a faithful revue of Bowie’s greatest hits. Singer Bernard Fowler (a regular with the Rolling Stones for decades) mixed in lyrics from other Bowie tracks in a haunting performance that captivated the audience from the first notes. As it came to a hushed end, the familiar riff of “Rebel Rebel” brought a rush of electricity from the audience and the concert never lost momentum.
Each stop of the tour offers different musicians and one of the surprises of this night was Mr. Hudson, best known for his work with Kanye West and Duran Duran. Arriving early in the set, Hudson’s jubilant vocals on “Changes” brought a smile to the veteran musicians on the stage. Anchored by Garson on piano, the band included two of Bowie’s legendary guitar partners, Earl Slick, who toured Diamond Dogs with Bowie and recorded with him on Young Americans and Station To Station and Gerry Leonard, who played on Heathen, Reality, and The Next Day. They offered the perfect balance of raw, rock riffs (Slick) and the more atmospheric textures (Leonard) that give Bowie’s music a mysterious depth.
Joe Sumner, son of Sting, stepped forward to sing the lead on an energetic “Let’s Dance” as Carmine Rojas stood to the back of the stage playing one of his most famous bass lines. Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gabby Moreno might have been the least known musician on the stage but her acrobatic vocals on “Five Years” and the elegant cover of “Wild Is the Wind” with Bernard Fowler held the audience enthralled. However, the musical highlight of the night was reserved for Bowie’s longest running collaborator, Mike Garson. His avant-garde playing on “Aladdin Sane” remains one of popular music’s most interesting moments and he dazzled the audience with a solo that illustrated the fractured mind of the song’s protagonist with unsettling beauty.
Birthday boy Gerry Leonard opened the encore with a raucous solo performance of “Andy Warhol” as looping guitar effects swirling around the venue like a tempest released. The night reached its all-too-soon end with a stripped down performance of “Heroes” which the audience sang with tearful smiles. The Celebrating David Bowie tour represents a shared experience between musicians and audience unlike anything that has come before it. It is more than a tribute, it is more than a look back. Bowie must be thrilled to watch it each night from above.