A celebration of David Bowie, the second, sold out show, of a two-night stand, at The Wiltern Theater on January 25, radiated with sheer star power from the special guests and Bowie collaborators included longtime pianist Mike Garson, The Cult’s Ian Astbury, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, Rolling Stones backup singer Bernard Fowler, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, Joe Sumner, Donovan Leitch, Earl Slick, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, virtuosic guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew, Mark Plati, Sterling Campbell, Holly Palmer, Gaby Moreno, U.K. singer Mr Hudson, Zack Alford, Carmine Rojas, Blair Sinta, Ron Dziubla, Lyle Workman and the event’s co-producer (with Garson and actor Gary Oldman), Angelo “Scrote” Bundi. A large choir and string section further augmented the expansive and multi-dimensional soundscape.
Well-known and more obscure material spanning the celebrated and legendary artist’s 50-year cannon pushed the boundaries of music, writing, art and fashion. A year after his death, Bowie’s remains a unique presence in contemporary culture and his vast influence continues to be felt and will endure for some time to come. As Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale remarked before launching into a frenetic rendition of “I’m Afraid of Americans” from the 1997 “Earthling” album, that “David Bowie’s music continues to be relevant”.
All performances were passionate, spirited and often reverential paying homage to the Thin White Duke. Some were slightly pretentious with a ham-fisted quality that gave off the feeling some artists were just trying too hard but with their hearts seemed to be genuinely in the right place. There many highlights during this three-hour-plus show. Some included Joe Sumner, Gaby Moreno, Ian Ashbury and Angelo Moore. Joe Sumner and Donavan Leitch who delivered an animated and high-energy turn at the mic on “Sorrow” from “Pin-Ups.” Sumner often hit the right notes and sang beautifully for the most part. His musical reading was appropriately dramatic on “Life On Mars” although the performance was at times overwrought with an excessive physical theatrics where a touch of subtlety could have gone a lot way to redeem the over-the-top aspect of it. Gaby Moreno was perfectly suited for “Five Years.” Her captivating, intense performance was as spellbinding as it was chilling. The smoldering charismatic Ian Ashbury who has a “just too cool” aura sang “Rock and Roll Suicide” and had the excited, vocal and receptive audience fixated to his magnetic stint in the spotlight. The most original and daring performance of the night belonged to the mercurial Angelo Moore, who called himself “Nigger Stardust,” was wearing a cape and top hat and painted mask on his face. Moore sang “Ashes To Ashes” in an interpretative and experimental way that would make Bowie slyly smile and nod his approval from the great beyond.
Dynamic, powerful and awe-inspiring, A Celebration of David Bowie was a musical slice of heaven for diehard fans and long devotees of the artist. If you never ever had the opportunity to see David Bowie live, the very spirit of his creative being could be felt and experienced through his groundbreaking work brought to life again at The Wiltern Theater. It was performed by the artists who loved and respected his music. The guest musicians and singers who were profoundly influenced by him as were the longtime collaborators on this stage who toured the world over many times and recorded with Bowie as a result came to call him a friend through years of personal association. The entire night felt magical and was quite moving.