Todd Rundgren changed costumes countless times throughout the night at the Celebrating David Bowie concert that took place at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Oct. 27, and, dressed in a silver spaceman suit, danced like a man lost in space during “Space Oddity.”
Adrian Belew — Bowie’s onetime band member and music director — didn’t change costumes at all, but added wild guitar solos to songs such as “Fashion,” “Stay” and “Station to Station,” creating sounds that few other guitarists could even imagine.
Royston Langdon of the band Spacehog echoed Bowie’s sense of theatrical melodrama in songs such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and “The Man Who Sold the World.” And Jeffrey Gaines — who I’m used to seeing solo, with an acoustic guitar — proved he can be a ferocious rock ‘n’ roll frontman on songs such as “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Moonage Daydream.”
David Bowie made music in countless different styles over the course of his 50-plus years as a rock star. And this show, featuring 30 songs released over a span of 44 years — 1969’s “Space Oddity” to 2013’s “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” — pretty much covered them all.
The first Celebrating David Bowie shows took place in 2017, and there were more in 2018. But the all-star tour came to New Jersey for the first time in Rahway, and there will be another Garden State show on Oct. 29, at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City.
Angelo “Scrote” Bundini led the band, in addition to playing guitar and occasionally singing lead. He, saxophonist-keyboardist-guitarist Ron Dziubla (who performed an extended sax solo as the intro to “Space Oddity”), bassist Angeline Saris and drummer Travis McNabb backed everyone, with Rundgren, Belew, Gaines and Langdon sometimes going offstage for a few numbers, or sometimes remaining to add guitar, keyboards or backing vocals when someone else sang lead.
As you can see from the setlist below, the two hour, 20-minute show covered most of Bowie’s best known songs as well as some slightly more obscure material. Belew and Rundgren, for instance, sang “Pretty Pink Rose” — the 1990 Belew/Bowie duet — together, with Rundgren handling Bowie’s parts. And Gaines provided one of the show’s few low-key moments with the moody Young Americans ballad, “Win.”
While the show, understandably, focused on Bowie’s output from the late ’60s to the early ’90s, his later years were covered with a three-song segment featuring “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” “Hallo Spaceboy” and “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
There was virtual no talking about Bowie between songs. This was a little surprising, because from previous shows and interviews, I know these musicians have a lot to say. The evening’s longest speech, in fact, came from Rundgren (after the show-closing group version of “Heroes,” with Belew reproducing Robert Fripp’s gorgeous lead guitar part perfectly) and had nothing to do with music. “Don’t forget to vote!” he said, in part of it. “This is not an off-year election. This is very on.”
Rundgren’s Spirit of Harmony Foundation, which supports music education, is one of the tour’s partners.
Here is the show’s setlist, with the lead singers in parentheses. Below it is a video from the show of Rundgren singing the Bowie-written Mott the Hoople hit, “All the Young Dudes.”
“Sound and Vision” (Adrian Belew)
“Young Americans” (Todd Rundgren)
“Moonage Daydream” (Jeffrey Gaines)
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” (Royston Langdon)
“The Man Who Sold the World” (Langdon)
“Five Years” (Gaines)
“Ziggy Stardust” (Langdon)
“Life on Mars?” (Rundgren)
“Ashes to Ashes” (Langdon)
“Golden Years” (Langdon)
“Boys Keep Swinging” (Belew)
“Station to Station” (Scrote, Rundgren)
“Space Oddity” (Rundgren)
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (Scrote)
“Hallo Spaceboy” (Scrote)
“I’m Afraid of Americans” (Langdon)
“Blue Jean” (Gaines)
“Pretty Pink Rose” (Belew, Rundgren)
“Let’s Dance” (Langdon)
“Rebel Rebel” (Gaines)
“All the Young Dudes” (Rundgren)
“Suffragette City” (Gaines)
“Heroes” (Rundgren, Belew, Langdon, Scrote)
For tour information, visit celebratingdavidbowie.com.
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