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Concert Reviews:
David Bowie's online birthday "Celebration:" A dozen highlights

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2021

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Celebrating the late David Bowie is no small concern.

So it made sense that "A Bowie Celebration...just for one day" on Saturday, Jan. 9, was suitably...well, big.

The three-hour virtual event, organized by longtime Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson, was delayed a day due to technical and logistical reasons, which actually placed it smack in the middle of what would have been his 74th birthday and the fifth anniversary of his death from liver cancer. Meticulously produced to meld visual performances from more than three dozen former Bowie band members and a wealth of guest singers -- some of whom (including Halestorm's Lzzy Hale, the Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen and a vision-in-teal Adam Lambert) weren’t yet born when Bowie's career started -- it was long and loving, covering the varied eras and gamut of styles that made Bowie one of the most fascinating artists of all time, not just of pop music.

It offered a great dealt to take in, especially in one sitting and perhaps to a vault. Nevertheless you couldn't walk away from "A Bowie Celebration..." awed, again, by the man's ambition and reach, and by the technical ardors that it took to put the show on screen.

Most every one of the 38 performances (all or part of 40 songs) was compelling, right up to Bernard Fowler's closing rendition of "Heroes," but here's a dozen that stood out as most memorable...

• Perry Farrell, joined by his Etty Lau Farrell and an interpretive dancer, saluted Bowie with an elaborately choreographed rendition of "The Man Who Sold the World."

• Living Colour frontman Corey Glover joined the alumni and gave his pipes a workout on a faithful romp through "Young Americans."

• Charlie Sexton, the Texan who opened for Bowie as a teenager during the 1987 Glass Spider Tour, was a kind of MVP for the night, singing four songs and serving in the band on several others. His best moment, however, came during "Let's Dance," when he put down his guitar and physically channeled Bowie, in shades and scarf,

• Onetime Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey -- who's also worked with Tears For Fears, Lenny Kravitz, Gang of Four, Gwen Stefani and many more -- took the vocal mic and spanned a decade for soulful, austere performances of a pair of deep cuts, 1975's "Can You Hear Me" and 1995's "Strangers When We Meet"

• Garson put his piano skills on display during Richard Rodgers' "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," an extended instrumental -- also featuring guitarist Kevin Armstrong -- that paid tribute to the late Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson (it was the title track of his first solo album) and to other late members of the Bowie band family.

• Def Leppard's Joe Elliott showcased his voice on a stripped-down arrangement of "Wind" -- then rocked out with the full band for "Ziggy Stardust."

• The christened-for-the-night Ground Control -- featuring Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins, Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor and Jane's Addiction members Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney -- lived up to its "supergroup" sobriquet with the Hawkins-sung "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and Taylor's "Hang on to Yourself."

• Peter Frampton, a childhood friend of Bowie's who also played on his 1987 Glass Spider Tour, delivered "Suffragette City" with the all the rocking abandon it requires.

• nine inch nails' Trent Reznor also scored with a double-dip. He and collaborator Atticus Ross joined Garson for a trippy "Fantastic Voyage," while his wife Mariqueen Maandig Reznor joined for a funky stomp through "Fashion."

• Singer Judith Owen was rapturous on "Lady Stardust," but her late-show duet on "Under Pressure" with Andra Day recast the Bowie-Queen collaboration just enough to make it feel new again, nearly 40 years after its release.

• Boy George has taken more than a few cues from Bowie during his gender-blending career, and he repaid the influence with a winning medley of "Lady Grinning Soul," "Time" and "Aladdin Sane," the latter extended to include Gershwin quotes from Garson on piano.

• Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter tipped his hat with "All the Young Dudes," the hit Bowie contributed to his band, but it was "Dandy," his 2016 tribute track, that really tugged at the heartstrings.

"A Bowie Celebration: ...just for one day" is available through 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10. Tickets through rollinglivestudios.com/bowie. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Save the Children Fund.

Web Site: www.rollinglivestudios.com/bowie

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