David Bowie’s longest and most trusted collaborator, pianist Mike Garson, brought A Bowie Celebration back to California for a series of concerts with a new setlist. The show came a year after an astounding show by the same core group at the Wiltern Theater last year.
As Garson greeted an exultant crowd at the beginning of a performance in the elegant Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles on February 7th, he paused to welcome the crowd. “Thank you for being here. I can tell you are a crowd that will really appreciate our expanded set list that will include the deep cuts of David’s music that normally doesn’t get played. It seemed that the masterful keyboardist was right as the crowd responded enthusiastically to every song in the expanded 24 song set. The evening began quietly with Garson on piano accompanying a solo by the band's stalwart singer, Bernard Fowler, for a sultry cover of “Bring Me the Disco King.” Then the band joined the pair on stage for a more well-known cover of “Rebel Rebel.” That pretty much set the tone for the long night of music with the band playing a few of Bowie’s biggest hits interspersed with some of his most interesting and experimental “Deep Cuts” in between.
The core touring band featured Garson, an American pianist, who has worked with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Billy Corgan, and The Smashing Pumpkins, among others. He acted as the master of ceremonies and fascinating storyteller, explaining how many of the songs came about. The animated guitarist Earl Slick brought a hard rock vibe to the show. Slick is perhaps best known for his collaborations with David Bowie, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Robert Smith, but also played with Bowie most notably on The Diamond Dogs tour. Mark Plati collaborated with David Bowie in the '90s, including extensive touring in 1999. He played an impressive rhythm guitar throughout the night. Bassist Carmine Rojas, who also collaborated with Bowie, brought an R&B/funk, and jazz vibe to the mix. Earl Slick’s son, Lee John Madeloni played drums for the band. Gaby Moreno, a Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist, sang backing vocals and brought a blues, jazz, soul and R&B influence on the group. Imani Elijah played passionate percussion. There was also a fantastic guest saxophone player who joined in for a few songs.
In addition to Fowler Moreno, another regular singer on the tour was Joe Sumner. Sumner is the singing prodigy of Sting. Rock singer Corey Glover from In Living Colour also appears periodically with the group and made his way to the Orpheum for this show.
If that wasn’t enough singing talent, the show also featured guest appearances by several other singers. Santa Monica local singer Naia Kete, who is well known as a favorite contestant on The Voice joined the band offering up some great vocal skills. Another Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, Holly Palmer, offered up her talents to the show as well. Blues-rock singer-guitarist Charlie Sexton also appeared as a special guest to play several songs. Sexton opened for Bowie on many of the dates of the 1987 Glass Spider tour. Finally, singer Evan Rachael Wood, perhaps better known as Dolores Abernathy in the Westworld television series, sang several inspiring tunes at the show.
The setlist at the Orpheum show proved to be one of the longest so far on the current tour, with the band not even pausing for an encore while delivering the 24 songs to a truly adulate crowd. The show was not only a testament to the brilliance of David Bowie and his music but also his ability to collaborate with innovative musicians from different genres of music to create a unique body of work that will live on for generations to come.