A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour

by Kevin Wierzbicki

The first stop on the North American leg of The David Bowie Alumni Tour was Feb. 6 at the Ikeda Theater at the Mesa Arts Center in metropolitan Phoenix, where Bowie fans were treated to a generous set of songs from throughout the late star's career performed by musicians and singers who had been in various incarnations of David's bands. Led by Bowie's longtime keyboards man Mike Garson, a veteran of 1,000 Bowie performances, the band also included guitarist Earl Slick, bass player Carmine Rojas, guitarist Mark Plati and lead singers Charlie Sexton, Corey Glover (Living Colour, Galactic) and revered Rolling Stones sideman Bernard Fowler. Additionally, Slick's son Lee John featured on the drums.

The show began with a take on "Bring Me the Disco King," a jazzy cut from the Reality album that Garson rightfully introduced as "a very esoteric David Bowie song." Reality, released in 2003, fared better in Europe than it did in the U.S., but Garson's piano work and Fowler's reverential vocals no doubt gave many in the crowd a reason to revisit the album. Sadness was not a part of the evening's entertainment, with the exception of a performance of "Lazarus" from Bowie's final album Blackstar. Garson told the crowd that until recently it was just too painful for him to perform the cut, and one could not help but empathize with Garson's loss, certainly larger than fandom's as a whole. But as the title of the tour suggests, the show is a celebration that was filled with palpable joy on stage and in the audience.

The three singers took turns coming to center stage for their vocal spotlights, with Fowler handling "Rebel Rebel," "Moon Age Daydream" and the funky "Fame" before Glover came forward with an amazing take on "Young Americans," complete with flawlessly hitting the cut's infamous high notes. Sexton, fresh off a tour of Europe with Bob Dylan, came on stage for the first time to sing "Space Oddity," "Starman" and the aforementioned "Lazarus," and Glover returned for "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Ashes to Ashes." Fowler, who handed the majority of lead vocals, turned in pensive readings of "Win" and "Stay," the latter also featuring some of Slick's hottest licks of the night.

The late portion of the show featured "Sweet Thing/Candidate," "Aladdin Sane," "Under Pressure," "The Jean Genie," "Suffragette City" and one of many songs of the night that turned into audience sing-alongs, "All the Young Dudes." The band left the stage to a standing ovation but returned for a two-song encore of "Diamond Dogs" and "Heroes," a quite appropriate closer considering how the audience felt about the players and the icon that they honored.

A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour continues through late March. Find all remaining tour dates here

A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour

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