Sunday, April 10, 2016

Can You Hear Me Major Tom? Music of David Bowie - Tribute

The public mourning of David Bowie continued with two tribute concerts planned on March 31st and April 1st in New York City. The Carnegie Hall March show was announced on what would be the day of David's passing. It was to be a tribute to honor him in person, such as they have done with the Rolling Stones and Bill Withers. The first selling out in two hours, they added the Radio City Show to allow more people to pay tribute to someone who meant so much to many music fans. 

No one really knew what to expect. Would it be a fast and furious tribute like Lady Gaga or the toned down and personal tribute from Lorde. We all heard rumors of who might show and had our own wishlist of songs. 

In all, both nights gave longtime Bowie fans what they deserved. They sang some hits, some songs unknown to the mainstream, but each artist was left to their interpretation of songs that inspired them. Each song beautiful in the tribute it sent to David Bowie.  And each night gave us amazing musicians inspired so much by the spirit of artistic chance.

Carnegie Hall seemed a bit of a dress recital with the sound engineers still trying to figure out their way around Carnegie Hall's sound rules. That aside, the show was nonstop, each artist only pausing to wait their introductions. Each song was chosen by the artist to honor the man of the night. And each artist brought their own interpretation to songs we know well. Many had worked with Bowie himself, making the tribute that more special and meaningful.

Evan Agostino
Carnegie Hall March 31, 2016
Cyndi Lauper – Suffragette City
Holy Holy – Width of a Circle
Robyn Hitchcock – Soul Love
Laurie Anderson - Always Crashing in the Same Car
Eurene Hutz – Breaking Glass
Debbie Harry – Starman
Joseph Arthur – The Man Who Sold the World
The Mountain Goats – Worn on a Wing
Michael Stipe and Karen Elison – Ashes to Ashes
J. Mascis and Sean Lennon – Quicksand
Bettye LaVette – It Ain't Easy
Perry Farrell – Rebel Rebel
Cat Power – Five Years
Ann Wilson – Let’s Dance
Pixies – Cactus
Rickie Lee Jones – All the Young Dudes
Jakob Dylan – Heroes
The Flaming Lips – Life on Mars?
Choir! Choir! Choir! w/ New York City Children’s Choir – Space Oddity

Radio City had a completely different vibe, from the relaxed atmosphere to people actually dressing up as their favorite Bowie characters. I met people who traveled from as far as Moscow to see the show.

The sound quality was 100% better for this show, which was great since we were allowed to stand and dance for this show. While there were some repeats performers, each artist still brought a new performance to us.

Radio City
 Ann Wilson - Space Oddity
  Holy Holy - The Width of a Circle
Jakob Dylan- Sorrow 
 Esperanza Spalding - If You Can See Me
  Donny McCaslin Group - Lazarus  
 Ron Pope-Moonage Daydream 
 Kyp Malone - The Bewlay Brothers
J Mascis and Sean Lennon - Quicksand 
Michael Stipe and Karen Elson- Ashes to Ashes
Pixies -  Cactus
Joseph Arthur -
The Man Who Sold the World 
  The Polyphonic Spree - The Man Who Sold the World 
 Jherek Bischoff, Amanda… more - Blackstar 
Mumford & Sons - It Ain’t Easy  
  Cat Power - Five Years 
 Rickie Lee Jones -  All the Young Dudes
 Perry Farrell -  Rebel Rebel 
 Blondie - Heroes 
 The Flaming Lips - Life on Mars? 
  Choir! Choir! Choir! w/ The NYC Youth Chorus - Space Oddity

As opposed to reviewing each song, I offer my highlights for both nights. 

Michael Stipe and Karen Elson gave us Ashes to Ashes, but not the cover version you'd expect. As only Michael Stipe could do, they gave us an almost re-invented, spoken word version of the song to follow up Space Oddity
 Gogol Bordello performed the quick-paced and perfect for a gypsy punk cover - Breaking Glass from the album Low. It actually makes you wonder why there were never any accordions or fiddles on the original. 

Perry Farrell  suits any Bowie tribute and his cover of Rebel Rebel was a highlight that got people on their feet.
I had no idea who the Polyphonic Spree were and shame on me. The band is a hybrid choir with flutes, horns, percussion, and upwards of 20 members at any given time. Their cover of Slip Away was nothing short of inspiring.

Amanda Palmer and Jheric Bischof didn't stray from the element's of Blackstar off Bowie's final studio album of the same name. They simply amplified it with additional vocalists, strings, and a guitar. 

As if written for them, It Ain't Easy was not a stretch to cover for Britain's Mumford and Sons. 

And for another artist non on the lips of the mainstream, Ron Pope brought his rock, pop, and a bit of 'billy to another track from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Moonage Daydream is a song that deserve and anthem title. It has sweeping guitar chords and keyboard and alto sax solos.  Rob Pope and his band of musicians made this sound like something we'd hear at The Last Waltz and so continued the unique evening of honoring Ziggy. 

And although organizers were adamant about no gimmicks -- everyone knew Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips would bend the rules, but who else could deliver a great Life on Mars??

And while all of the artists were truly magnificent, including Esperanza Spalding, Debbie Harry, Cyndi Lauper, and the reunited Pixies. The two nights were both the ability of each member of the audience to remember and share their love. 

What might be the most memorable experience from both nights, was singing along to Space Oddity with Torono's Choir Choir Choir and the New York City Youth Choir. Belting those words, with tears in on the precipice was healing. We all said goodbye to our Major Tom as the last line was sung and the lights went black. 

"Space Oddity"

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills
and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown,
engines on
Check ignition
and may God's love be with you

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff

This is Ground Control
to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule
if you dare

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating
in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

Though I'm past
one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead,
there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you....

Here am I floating
round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue

And there's nothing I can do.

2016 PMCarlson

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