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January 8th is an important day in rock history: it’s the birth date of both Elvis Presley and David Bowie.
The king of rock n’ roll and its greatest innovator being born on the same day is pretty incredible, and certainly cause for celebration.
There were no Elvis songs, but John Eller (of The Shiny Lights) and Chris Perricelli (of Little Man) led a group of friends in an intimate show full of Bowie’s best tunes. The laid-back vibe of the Hook and Ladder was an ideal atmosphere.
Anthems and Singalongs
The coolest moments were when the entire audience sang along during Bowie’s biggest hits. So many of Bowie’s songs are anthemic, making them perfect for crowd participation in this setting. Highlights included yelling the “hey man!” part in “Suffragette City,” “Ziggy played guitar!” at the end of “Ziggy Stardust,” and the practically every word of the last few songs (“Rebel Rebel,” “Golden Years,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Life on Mars?,” “Modern Love,” and “Young Americans”).
Since Bowie’s vocal range was so crazy, a lot of his songs are hard to sing. Eller, Perricelli, and the other band members did an admirable job of singing some of his most difficult songs. Perricelli was especially good on “Heroes,” “Rebel Rebel” (his showcase), and “All the Young Dudes.” Towards the end of the set, the stoic drummer moved to the front of the stage to give a stirring, soulful rendition of ballad “Sorrow.” It came completely out of nowhere and was a highlight.
Deep Cuts for Hardcore Fans
As a lifelong Bowie fanboy, the deep cuts were especially meaningful. I’m the type of snob that enjoys singing along with lesser-known songs more than the hits. What can I say, you don’t choose the Bowie fanboy life, it chooses you. And besides, everyone knows the hits. Singing along with the deep cuts is like being part of an exclusive club.
There were many in the 25+ song set, all coming from Bowie’s classic albums from 1971-1974: The Man Who Sold the World (“Black Country Rock”), Hunky Dory (“Oh! You Pretty Things” with super deep cut “Eight Line Poem,” “Andy Warhol,” “Queen Bitch”), Ziggy Stardust (“Hang onto Yourself”), and Aladdin Sane (“Watch That Man,” “Panic in Detroit”). The deepest cut was “Black Country Rock,” so that was really cool to hear, with Eller and Perricelli dueling on their acoustic guitars perfectly for each fill. They did the same on the title cut from Diamond Dogs, possibly the most fun song of the night.
What made the show so successful is that both the band and the audience were obviously huge Bowie fans. It was almost like the crowd was a huge chorus, which is about as intimate as you can get. The band cared and the audience reciprocated, making for a memorable evening.
While we’re at it…
- Fun (?) fact: deep cut “Andy Warhol” is one of the first songs I ever learned on guitar. During the show, I realized that a line in the song – “what a jolly boring thing to do” – perfectly describes Andy Warhol’s art philosophy.
- Although the band didn’t play any Elvis songs, they did do “Golden Years,” which Bowie wrote for the King and he rejected shortly before his death.
- I had the misfortune of sitting next to the only person in the room who didn’t seem like he wanted to be there (his wife made him go, presumably). When one of the backing singers said that she was glad that we were all there instead of at home watching TV, he grumbled “I like TV…” Yeah, we all do, but the point is that it’s nice to get away from it sometimes. For most of the show he was grumpy and sad looking (although he did, of course, sing along with the hits). The tipping point for me was when the band played “The Man Who Sold the World” and he said, “oh, nice, Nirvana.” I cringed and said “blasphemy!” His response: “well, their version is better.” I just rolled my eyes, shrugged my shoulders, and shook my head. What else can you do.
Hang onto Yourself
Rock n’ Roll Suicide
Oh! You Pretty Things/Eight Line Poem
Watch That Man
Panic in Detroit
The Man Who Sold the World
Black Country Rock
John, I’m Only Dancing
All the Young Dudes
Life on Mars?