Music review: A Bowie Celebration, O2 Academy, Glasgow

David Bowie's longest serving sideman Mike Garson headed the list of noted alumni, including Carmine Rojas, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard, Lee John and Bernard Fowler
David Bowie's longest serving sideman Mike Garson headed the list of noted alumni, including Carmine Rojas, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard, Lee John and Bernard Fowler
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DAVID Bowie was a benevolent but firm custodian of his own legacy right up until his untimely end in 2016 but one fancies that he would have looked favourably on the various posthumous tribute tours which have been helmed by the musicians with whom he worked most closely down the decades.

A Bowie Celebration, O2 Academy, Glasgow ****

Three years to the day since his passing, a number of his former bandmates from various points in his career convened for this latest sincere, celebratory trip through his formidable catalogue.

A Bowie Celebration was headed up by his longest serving sideman, the brilliant pianist Mike Garson, who playfully reprised his original audition from the early 70s, riffing on the opening bars of Changes. After ten seconds, he was informed he was in the band and remained so more or less until the end of Bowie’s life. The opportunity to hear him play his spine-tingling solo from Aladdin Sane was worth the price of admission alone, but he limbered up with a jazzy trip through Greensleeves, the track with which he would have opened Bowie’s seminal 2000 Glastonbury headline slot, had the sound been turned up in time.

Garson may have been the best known Bowie associate in the room but he was joined by a trio of judiciously chosen singers and other noted alumni, including Carmine Rojas, bassist on the Serious Moonlight tour, and guitarists Mark Plati, who co-produced the 1997 Earthling album, and Gerry Leonard, who worked on the later albums and final tours. Drummer Lee John, meanwhile, is the son of another celebrated Bowie foil, guitarist Earl Slick, who was absent from the Glasgow line-up.

Where previous tribute tours have concentrated on particular key albums from the Bowie canon, this two-hour set roamed freely around the back catalogue, starting near the end of his career, with Bring Me the Disco King, which formed part of the encore of his final Reality tour, sung immaculately here by longtime Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler.

Fowler has stage authority to spare and was more than equal to the Ziggy-era material, giving Moonage Daydream an epic edge. Corey Glover of hard rockers Living Colour replied by taking the complex Young Americans to church with a truly testifying rendition, leaving singer/songwriter Joe Sumner at a charismatic disadvantage on Starman and Space Oddity, though he sunk his teeth into the cathartic Five Years, demonstrating the most Bowie-like tone of the trio.

The Ziggy Stardust album was well represented throughout by the rip-roaring likes of Rock’n’Roll Suicide and Suffragette City, and the encore was given over to the show-stopping Life on Mars and a booming Heroes. But there was also space for a connoisseur diversion to the sublime Young Americans album track Win and an infernal take on spooky swansong Lazarus before Fowler and Glover teamed up for a triumphant Under Pressure which, like the rest of the set, allowed them to show off their chops while staying true to the spirit of the original recordings.