I have often seen myself as a bit of a Bowie purist, particularly as I saw the Dame himself ten times from 1976 to 2004. I have also never been a big fan of tribute acts. However I had heard some very good things about Absolute Bowie. But I do believe that this might have been perhaps one of the first gigs I had ever been to where I set out to not really enjoy myself. However I had a little word with myself about not being such a miserable git and to get on and enjoy the show and indeed that is what I did!
The first set focused on the Ziggy period, John O’Neill is a very convincing Bowie in both vocals and mannerisms. How much more authentic can you get than a 12 string guitar on a marvellous set opener “Space Oddity“. Those early songs were all nailed down perfectly, my particular favourites were “The Man Who Sold The World“, “Moonage Daydream“, “All The Young Dudes” and “Starman”. The band is clearly a very talented bunch, Chris Buratti is a stunning Mick Ronson with supreme guitar skills. There was even time for the obligatory Bowie of old costume change from the glittery jumpsuit into what was a very good approximation of one of Bowie’s Japanese outfits. The audience was in full vocal flow throughout the evening and Fibbers was rocking to the rafters. Close your eyes and you could imagine that you were at Friars in Aylesbury in 1972 or the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. By now all my doubts had disappeared and I was looking forward to the second set with relish.
I had wondered which Bowie era would be next on the agenda. I felt that it might jump straight to Serious Moonlight (more of that later!) but we were treated to classic Thin White Duke. The set opened with stupendous and rumbling work out of “Station To Station”. So great that it wasn’t just the all the usual hit singles, although there were plenty of those too. My favourite track from the second set was easily “Stay” which in my opinion never gets played enough. That said though “Fashion”, “Ashes To Ashes” and “China Girl” were all brilliant. “China Girl” is not even one of my favourite Bowie songs! We were even treated to another costume change during the second set, this time from Thin White Duke to the Serious Moonlight Bowie from 1983. Strangely I felt O’Neill looked more like Bowie in the Serious Moonlight segment, which is pretty special given the lack of make-up compared to his take on Ziggy. “Rebel Rebel” was a massive encore moment and the crowd went totally wild at this point.
If like me before this you consider yourself a bit of a Bowie purist (actually maybe snob would be better) just lose that attitude and lose yourself in the Absolute Bowie experience. I will definitely go and see Europe’s finest Bowie tribute act again. You will never see the real thing again, but this is as close as you’ll get without it being the real thing to paraphrase Woody Woodmansey.
Public Service Announcement: Obviously none of these excellent photographs or videos were taken or filmed by me, just so you know!