After David Bowie died in January, I spent a lot of time, over the next few days, reading what people were writing about him, online. I wrote at the time:
It has really struck me: More people are responding to this, in intensely personal ways, than I can ever remember in any other celebrity or artist’s death. And this was an artist who never consciously tried to fashion a persona that would appeal to the most people; many of his career choices were anti-commercial or even avant-garde. Yet by expressing the core of himself, eccentricities and all, so bravely, and by being so good at his craft, he wound up connecting, deeply, with more people than anyone would have imagined possible.
I thought much the same thing at “Sound + Vision: The Music of David Bowie,” a tribute concert that took place at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair on Friday. Five artists played songs by all the different Bowies we have known: The scruffy, Dylanesque Bowie and the hard-rocking Bowie; Bowie the slick pop star and Bowie the restless experimenter.
Richard Barone, who served as musical director as well as one of the performers, marveled at how unique each song was. Mikel Banks of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber spoke about Bowie was able to make art even out of his own imminent death, in the song “Lazarus” (from his Blackstar album, which ended up being released two days before his death, from liver cancer).
Burnt Sugar, a group with a constantly changing lineup, appeared as a sextet, and performed some songs on its own in addition to backing other artists. Jeffrey Gaines, Elvis Perkins and Wesley Stace joined Barone and Burnt Sugar as featured artists, with singer-guitarist Nick Celeste and autoharp player Danielle Aykroyd adding additional support.
My favorite moment came at the end of the first half of the show, when Shelley Nicole of Burnt Sugar belted out “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” with stunning power. Gaines was nearly as intense on “Five Years,” and there were many other great moments as well, including Stace’s haunting take on “Space Oddity,” with Barone adding otherworldly sounds with a vintage stylophone (the same instrument that Bowie himself played on the song); Perkins’ joyously ragged “Moonage Daydream”; and the celebratory, show-closing “Let’s Dance.”
Burnt Sugar opened each half of the show with a number from Bowie’s sonically ground-breaking Low album, and Barone did justice to one of Bowie’s definitive rock anthems (“Rebel Rebel”). Stace’s “Modern Love” helped me appreciate how cleverly constructed this song — which I had always dismissed as a pop throwaway — is.
Below is the show’s setlist and, below that, some video highlights.
“Sound and Vision,” Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber
“Space Oddity,” Wesley Stace
“The Man Who Sold the World,” Richard Barone
“Quicksand,” Elvis Perkins
“Five Years,” Jeffrey Gaines
“Moonage Daydream,” Perkins
“Ziggy Stardust,” Barone
“Suffragette City,” Stace
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” Burnt Sugar
“Breaking Glass,” Burnt Sugar
“Rebel Rebel,” Barone
“Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me,” Perkins and Barone
“Fashion,” Burnt Sugar
“Modern Love,” Stace
“Where Are We Now?,” Stace
“Let’s Dance,” Ensemble
Students from the School of Rock in Montclair opened the show with five Bowie covers of their own: “Golden Years,” “Life on Mars?,” “Young Americans,” “China Girl” and “Under Pressure.”
Here are some videos:
Burnt Sugar The Chamber Arkestra: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”
Jeffrey Gaines: “Five Years”
Wesley Stace: “Space Oddity”
Elvis Perkins: “Quicksand”
Richard Barone: “Ziggy Stardust”
Richard Barone: “The Man Who Sold the World”
Jeffrey Gaines: “Fame”