With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Holy Holy – Barbican, York – Friday 8th February 2019 February 10, 2019


I had wanted to see Holy Holy for a long while but I have never been in the same place at the same time. But this time I made it! For those of you who are unaware Holy Holy is a band with the backbone of two David Bowie stalwarts; Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey a former Spider From Mars and Tony Visconti who produced many of the Dame’s albums and contributed bass on ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ The vocalist is Glenn Gregory off of Heaven 17. Are they a Bowie tribute act? Not in the wonderfully theatrical sense that Absolute Bowie are I see Holy Holy more as a band that is keeping the legacy alive through people who were there and were a part of the whole Bowie phenomenon. But more of Holy Holy in a bit, there is the support act to consider first and this was a solo acoustic set by none other than John Bramwell off of I Am Kloot. This was apparently his first support gig in sixteen years since I Am Kloot supported Turin Brakes. His between song chat was hilarious, John is a true raconteur who speaks eloquently and intelligently. That eloquence and intelligence is a strong part of his lyrics too. This was the first night of the tour and John regaled us with the fact that he had forgotten his guitar stands and that he had left his merch in the car. He also explained why he always talks to the audience while tuning his guitar, at a gig some years ago while tuning he overheard a comment from the audience where someone said “I don’t like this new one!” Bramwell is a very talented singer songwriter who knows his audience and wins people over with wit and very classy songs. I reckon he had quite a few new fans after tonight.

In the past I was never a great fan of bands playing a whole album from start to finish at a gig, but I have grown to love it over the years. Tonight was a fabulous night with not just one Bowie album played in its entirety but two. First came ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ followed by ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’. It takes a good band to do these two LPs justice and this is a great band. Along with Woodmansey on drums, Visconti on bass and Gregory on vocals there are two guitarists; James Stevenson and Paul Cuddeford. Berenice Scott on keyboards and the multi instrumental Jessica Lee Morgan on acoustic guitar, saxophone, percussion and vocals. Glenn Gregory as the singer in this band is an inspired choice, he doesn’t try to be Bowie but he handles all the songs powerfully and tastefully. He certainly knows his rock god shapes and poses too. Hearing these two albums again in this environment made me think how fresh, new and different they must have sounded to fans back in 1970 and 1972 respectively. The explosive power and sheer bombast of set opener “Width Of A Circle” should have given Sabbath and Led Zep a run for their money but ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ album never really took off until after Ziggy Stardust exploded into being. The band really showed their full on hard rock credentials during this epic track and it set the scene for a great night. As a part of this blogs recent 10th birthday celebrations I posted my top ten Bowie songs, I did say that it changes regularly and after this Holy Holy gig I really need to find a space for the magnificent “All The Madmen”. When I first bought the album on cassette back in 1972 that was always my favourite song. Tonight all those teenage memories were brought to the fore again with an immaculate run through of this classic treatise on insanity where the only sane people are those in the asylums. Glenn Gregory and the band were firing on all cylinders for the first album of the evening and the crowd were singing along with most songs. Especially the title track and the “oh by jingo” refrain from “After All”. Obviously the first part of the show ended with “The Superman” on which Gregory’s vocals reached a new peak.

Now it was time for what many see as their favourite Bowie album, “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” to give it its full title. Incidentally my favourite Bowie album is ‘Diamond Dogs’. Woody Woodmansey’s understated drum sound on “Five Years” still sends shivers down my spine coupled with lyrics of hopelessness in a world that is dying. I don’t believe that Glenn Gregory quite captured the sheer emotion in Bowie’s delivery on the record but he still did a great job. “Moonage Daydream” was probably the point where many of the crowd left their seats to dance, that song blew the house down and I reckon Mick Ronson would have been more than satisfied with the guitar skills on display. As expected no one stayed quiet for “Starman” especially the “la la la” part. Interestingly, and perhaps to give Glenn Gregory a well deserved break, Jessica Lee Morgan (who is Tony Visconti’s daughter) sang “Lady Stardust”, this woman is incredibly talented. Has there ever been an album with a better closing four tracks than this? “Hang On To Yourself”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Suffragette City” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” tore the house down and put the roof into orbit. The only thing that could possibly have made that better would have been David Bowie actually being there. A spectacular band had just played two of Bowie’s finest albums, did they have anything left? Well yes they did, after a short break they were back for an encore. They kicked off their four song closing part with a wonderful surprise, not another hit from 1969 to 1973, but the beautiful and emotionally charged come back single from 2014, “Where Are We Now”. The band did not put a foot wrong and Glenn Gregory gave his finest vocal performance of the night, possibly not a dry eye in the house! This was followed by two classics from ‘Hunky Dory’, “Changes” and “Life On Mars”. The showed closed with the sing along sonic assault of “Rebel Rebel”. At the end Woody said a few words about being a part of this experience and being back in Yorkshire and then it was all over. It took me a while to come down from this high after getting home. I will definitely be seeing Holy Holy again!

Public Service Announcement: All photographs and videos were found on line. If any of them are yours and you would like a credit or for me to take them down please let me know.

 

Absolute Bowie – Fibbers, York Friday 13th January 2017 January 15, 2017


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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Public Service Announcement: Obviously none of these excellent photographs or videos were taken or filmed by me, just so you know!

 

Lazarus – Kings Cross Theatre London Saturday 29th October 2016 November 2, 2016


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Many regular readers will know that I am not a big fan of musicals. However there have been some exceptions to that rule for me; Sweeney Todd and Grease are two of those. But a musical that David Bowie wrote with Enda Walsh which debuted in New York a few weeks before he died? Well I was never going to miss that was I? My lovely wife Catherine a.k.a Catwoman accompanied me to London on Saturday for the matinee performance of Lazarus which opened in October and runs through to January. It is in the Kings Cross Theatre which is effectively a pop-up theatre on land owned by Google at the back of Kings Cross station. For a pop-up it is pretty damned good.

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Lazarus is a sequel to The Man Who Fell To Earth and most of you probably know that David Bowie played the lead role of Thomas Jerome Newton in the Nic Roeg directed film version of the Walter Tevis book in 1976. It was his first major film role. The stage musical recounts the life of Newton after he was prevented from leaving earth. He is spiralling into a total mental meltdown and spends his day becoming more paranoid, watching TV, drinking gin and reminiscing of past loves; his wife on his own planet and Mary Lou here on earth.

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The lead role of Thomas Jerome Newton is taken by Michael C Hall off of Dexter. We were lucky enough to see him, despite our tickets being for the matinée. He has a great singing voice although occasionally his speaking voice did simply sound like Dexter. But that is by no means a distraction he is an incredibly talented actor and singer. In fact the whole cast are supremely talented. When I first saw the songs included within the Lazarus musical I was a little surprised. There are a few big hits and the ones that worked best for me were “The Man Who Sold The World” and a magnificent and very different version of “Heroes” which closed the show. There are some songs written especially for the musical; “No Plan”, “Killing A Little Time” and “When I Met You”. Those three as recorded by David Bowie were recently released as CD 2 of the cast recording. I have never had great affection for Bowie’s 80s albums however there were some fabulous singles in that time and “This Is Not America” and “Absolute Beginners” work incredibly well in this context.

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I was amazed at how well all the songs fitted the musical’s story line so well. It was as if they were all written especially for it. I never would have expected “It’s No Game” from ‘Scary Monsters’ to work as part of a stage musical but it really does as does “Always Crashing In The Same Car” from ‘Low’. But the highlights for me were “Valentine’s Day” and “Where Are We Now” (both taken from ‘The Next Day), “Lazarus” from ‘Black Star’ and the previously mentioned “Heroes”. The story is very cleverly written and flows really smoothly. The set is quite sparse and this allows a total free space for the cast to weave their magic. The use of some very different lighting and the giant TV screen contributes in a complimentary way to the whole experience. There are seventeen songs performed during the show along with two songs that get played in the background; Mr Bowie’s “Sound And Vision” and Ricky Nelson‘s “Hello Mary Lou“. You will have needed to have watched the film of ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ to get the inclusion of that Ricky Nelson classic.

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All in all this is a magnificent, heart warming and heart-rending show and it acts as a poignant reminder of the true talent that left this world when David Bowie died in January. My good lad Catwoman said that had she not been married to me she probably wouldn’t have bothered to come and see Lazarus. However she enthused about it just as much as me afterwards. We both loved it and I am sure that you will too whether you are a Bowie fan or not. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have already seen it in London or New York.

 

 
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