If David Bowie decides to tour again, the set list will probably feature The Next Day (of which I’m a huge fan), a smattering of crowd-pleaser tracks and the rest would be the next, much awaited album. But until the great man decides to tour again, Bowie fans have to either carry on playing his music alone in their bedrooms, or venture out to sate their Spider lust in other ways.
There are tribute bands who attract huge crowds (Putney’s Half Moon is always a sellout), but one can go one better than that this week and see a real Spider, as Holy Holy are appearing at the 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire for The Man Who Sold the World. Holy Holy are made up of Bowie’s drummer Woody Woodmansey who has teamed up with producer/performer Tony Visconti and a roving collection of friends and family, and including erstwhile Bowie bassist Erdal Kizilcay. Taking Bowie’s place is Heaven 17s Glen Gregory, who certainly has the powerful vocals and enough stage presence to do The Man Who Sold the World justice, although not quite the range of Bowie’s voice. He’s joined by other 80s mates including Gary Kemp and Steve Norman.
The first few songs belong to Glen, until – and this is one of the most touching moments of the evening – Marc Almond comes out on stage to sing After All – it’s a song which has a strange, Dickensian feel, and in retrospect suited Marc rather than Glen. Marc Almond seems to have reached ‘national treasure’ status as his stage entrance is greeted with huge applause from the audience.
The Man Who Sold the World is a short album, so as it drew to a close we did wonder what was coming next – were we going to be turfed out early into the west London night? Indeed no, what followed was another hour or so of some Bowie greats, complete with guest performers. Of these, Watch that Man fizzed with power, and saw Marc Almond back on stage to accompany Glen on vocals.
A standout track for me was Lady Stardust, sung by Lisa Ronson, who up till this point had been part of the background as one of the three female backing singers. Perhaps the most moving Bowie moment of the evening was towards the evening’s conclusion: Woody struck the drums for the opening of Five Years. It sounded pure and thrilling. Here was an unadulterated moment in time, those beats, etched on our memories, coming at us down the wire from so many years ago.
The evening was clearly an emotional and euphoric experience for the performers, especially with support act Morgan Visconti – Tony Visconti’s son – rejoining the band on stage at the end, making it a real family affair. Glen and Tony communicated with us at length, relating the story of how the unique event had come together. It felt like a very special occasion, with an appreciative audience, many of whom looked to be of an age to have once been teenage Ziggy fans (I first saw Bowie in Hanley, Staffs, in 1973, my friend and I were right at the front, and I’ll never forget David looking down and smiling at us). But as the Bowie hits were rolled out at this fun, rocking concert, nevertheless I did find myself longing to see ‘the real David Bowie’ again, giving the audience what will be, no doubt, creative, challenging and provocative material again. Until that happens, this exhilarating evening brought together Bowie’s musicians and fans for a rousing journey through Bowie’s earlier classics.
THE SMALL PRINT
WHO: Holy Holy Bowie
WHEN: September 22, 2014
WHERE: 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire