Simply put, absolutely no one can ever replace David Bowie.
With his passing in 2016, the world truly lost a brilliant talent — a trailblazer, a musical legend a true rock icon. However, for fans with a star-shaped hole still in their hearts, there was an event that seemingly offered the perfect solution. “Celebrating David Bowie,” which graced The Regency Ballroom on Saturday, was the next best thing to Ziggy Stardust himself.
A tribute to the rock idol, the show featured a powerhouse ensemble made up of a dream team of talented musicians, some of which originally toured alongside Bowie. With constantly rotating singers and consistent excitement exuding from the audience, the celebration was an extremely well-executed display of musicality and a touching tribute to a well-loved rock god.
The set list itself read like a sampling from a “greatest hits” compilation, yet each track got a vibrant reimagining through the talent of each respective vocalist. Starting off the night with a one of Bowie’s softer hits, “Bring Me the Disco King,” cemented the first vocalist of the night, Bernard Fowler, as one to watch, with an opening performanced that oozed sensitivity.
However, if the audience expected this subdued trend to continue for Fowler, they were mistaken.
While the show’s preliminary number was perfectly rendered, Fowler truly shined on the following track of “Rebel Rebel” during which he sported powerful vocals and an unmistakable rock star swagger. With hips swinging, Fowler was born to sing rock, and his passion was impossible to miss in songs such as “Moonage Daydream.”
Lyrics such as “Put your ray gun to my head / Press your space face close to mine, love” got a literal translation, as Fowler made sure to punctuate each line with a matching dance move. Dynamic in terms of vocal range and ability to command a stage, Fowler strutted the stage with a Bowie bravado. As the singers circled around stage, it was clear that the audience most eagerly awaited his triumphant returns to the microphone.
Gaby Moreno also secured a fair amount of the audience’s applause and attention. Moreno seemingly floated across the stage, as saintly as Stevie Nicks but with the vocal power of the Goblin King himself. A standout moment occurred in a duet between Moreno and Fowler, who shared the stage during a masterful cover of “Wild is the Wind.” Draped in a dark cloak and silhouetted against a single spotlight, Moreno’s impressive and hovering soprano soared. The audience was noticeably silent during the song’s ending moments, as if afraid that a single word could break its spell.
While the constant rotation of singers was mostly to the benefit of the audience, it also served as the event’s only flaw. Immediately following incredible tributes, brief moments of disorienting silence filled the air as the singers filtered on and off stage. Although necessary, these scene changes nevertheless disrupted the continuity of the show overall.
Particularly jarring, were singers who made an appearance for a single song, like in the case of “Space Oddity.” Sting’s son Joe Sumner made an abruptly brief cameo on stage for one of Bowie’s most popular tracks before fading back into the stage’s background. Such a quick turnaround didn’t give him the opportunity to stand out, and it seemed bizarre after Fowler had previously performed four knockout songs in a row.
Mike Garson, the event’s emcee, punctuated the night with trivia from former tours. While a powerhouse behind the keys in his own right, especially in his soaring piano solo on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” he was also the source for many of the night’s laughs. Through a humorous anecdote about Bowie’s antics on stage (and Bowie’s lack of memory about the story itself), Garson offered not only chuckles but also an opportunity for the audience to once again fondly remember their fallen idol.
Indeed, while Bowie’s absence was conspicuously felt, his music echoed through The Regency Ballroom with every distorted guitar chord and breathless shout from its audience.