"I got married to this song. I’m really proud of that." These were the first words that were spoken to me as I lifted the camera to my eye and the piano rang out the opening notes of "Life on Mars?" at Blue Note Hawaii in Waikiki.
David Bowie’s eccentric musical legacy and influence will forever leave a mark on pop culture. It is no small feat to have so many renowned musicians come together under one roof in celebration of a single artist, and in Hawaii no less. A Bowie Celebration, The David Bowie Alumni Tour is a whimsical, musical family reunion of sorts, that brings together generations of musicians who have walked alongside Bowie’s footsteps to share a stage and celebrate the man and his music.
Every stop on the tour has been vastly different with a revolving cast of artists made up of an all-star list of longtime Bowie collaborators. The musicians that accompanied the Hawaii stretch of the tour were piano virtuoso, Mike Garson; guitarists, Gerry Leonard & Mark Plati; bassist, Carmine Rojas and drummer, Lee John. With Corey Glover of Living Colour and Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane leading the charge, weaving their unique vocal styling across Bowie’s vast catalogue of hits.
As the evening began, Bowie’s longest collaborator, Mike Garson stepped behind the grand piano and performed a grandiose medley of songs that would be later played in their entirety with the entire band. This was going to be a night of celebration, one full of surprises and one we would never forget.
Although, I am quite familiar with the songs that were inescapable on FM radio throughout my childhood, I’ll admit that I’ve never actually owned any of Bowie’s past albums. My first real introduction to David Bowie’s songwriting came in the form of Nirvana’s acoustic take on "The Man who Sold the World". Hearing Glover take the reins on the song with Sumner’s harmony entwining with his own will always hold a special place in my heart.
With over two hours of material from his back catalogue, ranging from the iconic 70’s hit, "Changes", with Sumner backing Glover’s powerful vocals on guitar, to a surprisingly aggressive rendition of "I’m Afraid of Americans", Bowie fans of all generations would be going home with many stories to tell their kids. The highlight of the night for myself was the exchange between Glover & Sumner as they performed "Under Pressure", Queen’s classic duet between Bowie & Mercury ending on Glover’s ear-piercing falsetto. Another notable moment was the special guest appearance by percussionist, Gerardo Velez, best known for stepping on stage at Woodstock in 69’ with Hendrix and also appearing on Bowie’s 18th studio album, Black Tie White Noise.
This was not a night of mourning for the loss of a pop icon, this was a genuine performance celebrating life and legacy. I left with greater respect for not just David Bowie’s music but everyone who took it upon themselves to keep his dream alive. Those are the true heroes, if just for one day.