‘Celebrating David Bowie’ Electrifies the Wiltern in Los Angeles: Fans Leave with Stardust in their Eyes (Review/Photos)
With an expansive musical catalogue of over 27 studio albums spanning over 50 years and a sophisticated and otherworldly style of artistry, honoring an iconic legend such as David Bowie with a concert tour performing his songs is no easy task, even if you are his longtime bandmate.
For the second year in a row since the Star Man’s departure, the Celebrating David Bowie band is successfully exhibiting Bowie’s music like the priceless art piece that it is. Performing his provocative playlist in a multi-city European and North American tour, which launched on the second anniversary of his death, January 10, in Paris, France and currently concludes on March 19 in New Orleans, LA, is a rotating ensemble of brilliantly talented artists comprised of Bowie’s bandmates, friends and guest musicians.
On Wednesday night at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, with palpable anticipation from the audience, the opening song commenced at 8pm with Mike Garson rightly taking his place on his royal throne at the piano, with Bernard Fowler of The Rolling Stones fame stepping into the spotlight singing lead vocals on a haunting rendition of “Bring Me the Disco King.”
Mike subsequently introduced the song “Rebel Rebel,” and to a rousing applause, a sixty-five year old Earl Slick emerged on stage in all of his rock n roll glory wearing his guitar, leather and tattoos better than any cool cat on the block would ever dare to.
Mike mentioned that Slick, who now has his own guitar line, joined Bowie’s band in 1974. The audience continued to howl with excitement as one by one, long time Bowie collaborators Gerry Leonard, Mark Plati and Carmine Rojas took their place on stage with their guitars and bass. Guest musicians followed their lead, with one of them being a Latin Grammy Award winning singer, the extraordinary Gaby Moreno, and Lee John Medeloni, Earl Slick’s son, who started the song with that famous catchy drumstick-smacking intro.
The band continued to lead a packed house of Bowie believers through a retrospective musical journey of 25 of his most beloved songs, with Bowie’s longtime collaborator and pianist Mike Garson introducing most of the songs as guest vocalists rotated on lead vocals. One of them being Mr. Hudson, who sang in true Bowie fashion the 1972 single “Changes,” appropriately wearing a black and white satin baseball team jacket with letter patches that spelled BOWIE across the front of his chest.
Joe Sumner, Sting’s son, and a fine musician and vocalist in his own right, had the honor of singing “Let’s Dance,” which Mike Garson mentioned was David Bowie’s biggest hit. Mike invited his grandson Max to play on percussion, and he held the beat quite well on the congas, but then again, if you are related to Mike Garson, you most likely then carry the musical Jean Jeanie.
One of the highlights of the evening was a surprise appearance by the beautiful Westworld actress, Evan Rachel Wood, who just hours earlier gave a powerful testimony on Capitol Hill about her horrible experiences of rape and torture during a hearing for the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill.
She sang an emotionally gritty “Moonage Daydream” and “Rock n Roll Suicide,” and joined in with BGV’s on “Suffragette City,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Space Oddity” and on the closing song, “Heroes.”
Other highlights from the magical night:
Young Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno delivered a dynamically powerful “5 Years,” hitting high notes that were beyond comprehension.
Corey Glover, the front man for the rock band Living Colour, did a fantastic take on “Young Americans,” fronting the lyrically wordy tune with sharp clarity and passion.
A fun-filled dueling instrumental banter between Earl Slick’s blues guitar riffing and Mike Garson’s ragtime piano-tinkling segued into a soulfully expressive cover of “Jean Jeanie,” performed by Fantastic Negrito, an Oakland-based Blues and R&B artist, who lived up to his name. It was one of my favorite performances of the evening.
At the conclusion of a stirring delivery from Joe Sumner of “All the Young Dudes,” the band left the stage — with the exception of Garson, who looked out into the audience and thanked them profusely as he finally exited.
After a few minutes of a screaming, raucous audience demanding an encore, Mike and Gerry returned to the stage to calm the masses. Much to the audience’s satisfaction, Gerry introduced the first of what would be a five-song encore, singing lead vocals with just the accompaniment of his electric guitar to Bowie’s artist-inspired tune, “Andy Warhol.” The crowd chuckled as he mentioned that Andy Warhol himself didn’t really like the song.
During Mike Garson’s intro to “Space Oddity,” he noted that the song is being played in space as we speak for eternity, referencing Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch of a Tesla Roadster attached to the tip of a Falcon Heavy rocket to Mars orbit with the song programmed to play on repeat through the car’s stereo system. How apropos is that?
After Joe Sumner’s sweltering delivery of “Life on Mars,” Mike Garson’s personal favorite, and Bernard Fowlers’ funky-fun take on “Diamond Dogs,” the two-plus hour show concluded with an emotionally heartfelt “Heroes,” sung powerfully by Fowler with everyone joining in on the vocals, including a very vocal audience.
Hand in hand, the band, after a few final bows, waved to the audience with smiles and blew kisses while walking to the edge of the stage to shake the hands of David’s devoted fans. It seemed that both the band and them found comfort in one another having shared a deep connection through the mutual love of David Bowie’s music.
- Bring Me the Disco King
- Rebel, Rebel
- Let’s Dance
- Moonage Daydream
- Rock n Roll Suicide
- 5 Years
- Young Americans
- Jean Jeanie
- The Man Who Sold the World
- Station to Station
- Lady Grinning Soul
- Aladdin Sane
- Wild as the Wind
- Ziggy Stardust
- Suffragette City
- All the Young Dudes
- Andy Warhol
- Space Oddity
- Life on Mars
- Diamond Dogs