As far as tributes go, David Bowie is an ambitious project to undertake and one not to be done so on a whim. But this would not prevent the eight musicians I witnessed from achieving eminence. I had high expectations that were utterly blown away. Incontrovertibly, the powerful and enthralling artistry of the tribute band demolished any of my prior convictions.
Magnificent to behold, and an endearing performance; an elusive act so rarely encountered, but none the less so potent, so poignant, so harrowing, and yet so unforgettable.
This is perhaps the closest you’ll get to the real thing. Irrespective of their given role in reanimating Bowie’s discography, The Sensational David Bowie Tribute Band are nostalgic only in theory – their unsanctioned enthusiasm and musical talent expounds a show that is neither replication nor commonplace, but innovative in its own right and captivating on all fronts.
The Merchant Hall is perfect for an act of this calibre with its elegant golden walls adorned with man-sized portraits. The beginning is a hushed awe of excitement as the lights go down and the night sky above is visible to us from the great glass dome above. All grows still. Until Andrew Laurie’s piano breaks in quietly with a tinkering introduction reminiscent of Hunky Dory, before the band emerge to rattle out Blue Jean.
The first half is meteoric, where the superb rendition of China Girl tunes out into Changes, and thereafter sees major hits like Life on Mars? and Let’s Dance make appearances. The mesmerising jangles of Allie Jones’ guitar rings in the intro to Space Oddity before the rest arrive to round off the first half dramatically.
The Second half opened with Rebel Rebel before the sinister musings of The Man Who Sold the World. Here, we are treated to the use of maracas and piccolo, courtesy of backing vocalist Janice Laurie. The band fluctuates seamlessly between the eras and transmittable personalities of Bowie. O’Brien is the ultimate triumph, the lynchpin of the group and by the far hero of the night who oozes confidence and exerts indisputable command over the audience. He underpins all of Bowie’s trademarks, including his coveted crooning voice and stage personality. But the rest of the band cannot be undersold.
Each instrumentalist is fundamental to the show, and everyone on stage demonstrated outstanding marksmanship on their given solos. Certainly, the duet between Janice and John on Under Pressure confirms she is not merely there to occupy a supporting role, but is instrumental to the routine at hand, especially in numbers like Young Americans, where her vocal talents are more noticeable. Elsewhere, the instrumentalists display their musical prowess, with the likes of Starman presenting immense guitar solos from Alan Philips, and the likes of Gene Jeanie driven by the tumultuous drumming of Matthew Kelly and the thunderous bass lines of Tom Laurie.
An encore of Heroes set the entire room to their feet and ended on a rapturous high. It was magnificent to behold, and an endearing performance; an elusive act so rarely encountered, but none the less so potent, so poignant, so harrowing, and yet so unforgettable.