Review - A Bowie Celebration - The David Bowie Alumni Tour - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 12th January 2019
A rainy night in west London saw a sold out Shepherds Bush Empire play host to a group of musicians who have each spent years performing and recording with David Bowie. Although nothing can truly replace a evening with the Starman himself, the alumni are the closest your going to get in 2019 and with a roster including Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Carmine Rojas and Gerry Leonard, it’s fair to say that there’s no one out there who can play Bowie’s music better.
The guest vocalists on this tour do change around, but tonight we were treated to Bernard Fowler, Corey Glover and Joe Sumner, each of whom gave wonderful interpretations of classics from the Bowie back catalogue.
I have spent the better part of the past 25 years watching Bernard Fowler sing backing vocals for the Rolling Stones, so seeing him able to truly shine as a front man is always a pleasure. After Mike Garson had kicked things off with an oft-repeated Glastonbury anecdote and a piano rendition of "Greensleeves", Bernard launched into a lovely version of "Bring Me the Disco King". I thought starting in the 2000’s was a bold but solid move. Next was "Rebel Rebel" with Earl Slick coming on stage to show us he was here for a party. Bernard’s last track of this section was "Fame" and he owned it, I’ve literally never seen him so obviously having such a good time, it was a genuine joy to watch.
Corey Glover took the mic for "Young Americans" and made the song his own with some impressive vocal gymnastics. Joe Sumner, whose voice is the most Bowie-esque of the three vocalists then joined the band for "Starman" and "Space Oddity", both were kept pretty true to the originals and I have to admit I closed my eyes and got a little bit emotional during "Space Oddity" - I felt like if I just imagined enough it was almost, almost like he was there.
My cold, stone heart never softens for too long though and by the time Corey came back on for "Changes" I was happily rocking out again. The band showed the depth of their experience by including a few lesser played songs like "Lady Grinning Soul" and "Win" among the classics, but they know what the crowd were really there for and the rest of the set included a brilliantly funky "Ashes to Ashes" from Corey, a powerful "Station to Station" from Bernard (“It’s not the side effects of the cocaine” delivered in a tone bordering on the venomous in a good way), "Ziggy Stardust" and "Suffragette City" including a well-received crowd invasion from Corey. "All The Young Dudes" and a perfectly paced Bernard and Corey duet on "Under Pressure" finished the set with the encore being "Life on Mars" and "Heroes".
A brilliantly put together and well executed evening of Bowie’s incredible music was enough to warm my heart on a winter’s night. No, it’s not the same, it can never be, but it was close enough for me.
Catch the Bowie alumni across Europe for the rest of January and in North America in February in March. If you’re a Bowie fan, it’s well worth the ticket price.