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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 16, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 11
'Celebrating David Bowie' showcased the legend's music to great effect, but not much else
Arts & Entertainment
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'Celebrating David Bowie' showcased the legend's music to great effect, but not much else

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

'CELEBRATING DAVID BOWIE'
BENAROYA HALL
March 10


David Bowie wasn't in the building last Saturday night, but his spirit was certainly felt at Benaroya Hall where fans and some of the artist's longtime band members paid tribute to him with a performance that featured music from his illustrious catalog.

The evening kicked off with Bernard Fowler, one of three men who rotated on vocals throughout the night, singing a solo version of 'Bring Me the Disco King,' a track from Bowie's 2003 Reality record, and 'Rebel Rebel' backed by an assembled group of veteran musicians simply called the Celebrating David Bowie (or CDB) Band. He then performed two more numbers, 'Moonage Daydream' and the well-known favorite 'Fame.' Fowler can definitely sing, but his vocals were too strong and husky, and at times too R&B, for Bowie's edgier, alternative rock songs.

I much preferred the vocals of Mr. Hudson, a British artist who has collaborated with a varied list of colleagues from Jay Z to Miley Cyrus, who fared better on 'Changes' and 'Where Are We Now?' which appeared on a recent Bowie album, 2013's The Next Day. His vocals were more on par with Bowie's than either of the other singers.

The third vocalist was Joe Sumner, who interviewed with Seattle Gay News two weeks ago ahead of the show. Sumner's vocals were perfect for 'Space Oddity,' though his rendition of 'Let's Dance' sounded very karaoke-like, as if someone was singing it tipsy at a wedding reception. He was great, however, on 'Lady Grinning Soul,' a track that Bowie never sang live; he only recorded it in the studio. However, I really loved Sumner's energy and his outfit, a funky multi-colored suit that looked as if it had been plucked out from an '80s time capsule.

Further on, Mr. Hudson sang excellent covers of 'Ziggy Stardust,' 'Five Years' and a gorgeous redo of 'Rock n' Roll Suicide,' a song that Bowie collapsed while performing it at Radio City Music Hall in 1973.

Fowler was rather impressive on 'Suffragette City,' a song that seemed to fit him like a glove. The audience, which packed the floor level of the Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium at Benaroya Hall and two entire balcony sections, was on its feet and clapping along. This was a crowd of mostly 40-somethings or older, those who grew up listening to Bowie's music. But younger folks, some who accompanied their parents or have only recently landed upon David Bowie, also came out for the tunes.

The audience was full of diehards, many of whom wore Bowie tour tee-shirts and snatched up memorabilia quickly in the lobby before the performance started. A lot of them shared stories of seeing Bowie in person, or listening to his records in college, or even introducing his songs to their children.

Sumner, whose father is pop-rock legend Sting, drew the curtain on the main set with a terrific cover of 'All the Young Dudes' featuring crafty guitar work from Earl Slick, who was impeccable all night.

A three-number encore included 'Andy Warhol,' which featured a standout guitar solo from all-star musician Gerry Leonard, and the classic 'Heroes,' which many in the venue sang out loud to. If you're going to cap an evening of David Bowie songs with anything, it might as well be 'Heroes,' perhaps his most beloved hit.

Strangely, there were no images of Bowie displayed anywhere, except on stage curtains at the very beginning before the lights were dimmed, and no video footage. Neither did the band rekindle any of the icon's fashion forward statements, which boldly depicted the singer-songwriter's taste for unconventional and androgynous style. No slide show, either. Mike Garson, the show's emcee, told only two short stories and that was it; I was hoping for a really good behind-the-scenes, never-been-told-before story to take home with me.

'Celebrating David Bowie' was about his music, only - I get it - but I was craving something more than just listening to a bunch of his songs. I wanted to celebrate all of Bowie, not just his music.

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