Music review: Mike Garson plays Aladdin Sane, ABC, Glasgow

Bowie's foil for years, Mike Garson fronted a brilliant band
Bowie's foil for years, Mike Garson fronted a brilliant band
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New York pianist Mike Garson was one of David Bowie’s most celebrated creative foils across four decades, first making his mark with his audacious avant-garde jazz solo on the title track of Aladdin Sane. Following similar top-drawer Bowie tribute tours starring producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Earl Slick, Garson helmed a brilliant band including Iggy Pop’s rhythm section, ace saxophonist Terry Edwards and Guatemalan vocalist Gaby Moreno to perform Aladdin Sane in full.

Mike Garson plays Aladdin Sane, ABC, Glasgow ****

Moreno was a revelation, as expressive and effective on the glorious rock’n’roll of Panic In Detroit and the low-slung doo-wop of Drive-In Saturday as the Weimar cabaret flourishes of Time. Garson’s talent is a known quantity but it was thrilling to hear his characterful virtuosity applied to boogie woogie licks on a hectic Let’s Spend The Night Together and the sublime glide of Lady Grinning Soul.

There was a random but unobtrusive guest appearance by Still Game’s Gavin Mitchell, who joined Gillian Glover on backing vocals, and what turned out to be a mercifully brief cameo by Bowie’s contemporary, Steve Harley, whose own comparatively lumbering songs, A Friend for Life and Sebastian, threatened to dilute the sterling work across the rest of the show.

Thankfully, Moreno returned to save the day with a heroic Rock’n’roll Suicide and Five Years, a gorgeous Latino-flavoured Wild Is the Wind and an epic Under Pressure (with Moreno as Mercury and Glover on the Bowie lines) and Garson provided a space for reflection with a dusky and dramatic improvisation before the party climax of Ziggy Stardust and Let’s Dance.