There are many reasons why an artist like David Bowie has had such a long and illustrious career. Music’s ultimate chameleon has written so many hits and songs that it leaves an enormous pair of space boots to fill if a musician is ever faced with covering or paying tribute to him. But the artists behind Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie tribute at the Opera House were celebrating their own fine work, by doing another faithful tribute concert to the great man in a self-proclaimed “David Bowie fashion parade” of sorts.
The show was lead by an alternating cast of singers. Jeff Duff and Steve Balbi (Noiseworks, Rose Tattoo) are old hands at this, having fronted the band before, plus Duff is an old glam rocker from way back. It also helps that he is tall, slim and androgynous-looking. It meant that when the show started with “Starman” and he came out throwing glitter and wearing blue eye shadow, a silver jumpsuit, space wings and matching boots, for a minute there you would’ve thought it was the real David Bowie.
Balbi on the other hand was rocking a look that was more reminiscent of Johnny Depp, even though he was the strongest singer for the evening. The other front man for the night was Brydon Stace. All three singers would alternate costumes to suit the period of the song. They were joined by a six-piece band that boasted Kate Cebrano’s brother, Phil Cebrano (guitars), Victor Rounds (bass), Jak Housden (guitars), Scott Aplin (keys) and the very talented, multi instrumentalist, Ross Middleton (flute, keys, saxophone and percussion). The group would play fluid and mostly faithful renditions of the material.
They would perform for a little over two hours with hits like “Ziggy Stardust”, “Changes”, “Diamond Dogs” and “Life On Mars” offered. The only complaint that could possibly be made is that there were a few noteworthy omissions, including: “Fashion”, “Queen Bitch”, “China Girl” and the “Dancing In The Street” cover Bowie did with Mick Jagger in the eighties. But then, with such a large discography of material to choose from, you could play for hours and barely scratch the surface.
An early highlight of the night was “Ashes To Ashes” with its spine-tingly keys. Stace would also play up the camp moments in his delivery of this one, at times resembling Paul McDermott in sideshow-mode but this took nothing away from the original song. It was an utter joy, even if the lyrics are dark, because the fans got to sing along and be nostalgic. But that said, the crowd did take a little while to warm up and enjoyed Bowie’s bigger “hits” over some of the more obscure singles but once their spirits rose, they stayed pretty high.
In “Space Oddity”, Middleton’s flute was as light and as gorgeous as angel hair. It was almost like it was a gift from the heavens above, as a disco ball lit up and bathed the Studio in golden light. “Fame” on the other hand was a sexy and chaotic version lead by Balbi who took the time to get down and dirty with the great unwashed.
Some readers may think of the track, “The Man Who Sold The World” as one by Nirvana, thanks to their MTV Unplugged performance. But it’s a Bowie original and tonight’s version was closer to that then the acoustic cover. Stace did an especially sweet version of this song, his vocals remaining ever so shiny before the love letter that was “Wild Is The Wind”. Stace would also play Freddie Mercury to Balbi’s Bowie in the funky, “Under Pressure”. Other highlights included “Jean Genie” and “Let’s Dance”, the latter forcing the audience to do just as Bowie had instructed.
The show would close with an incendiary, “Suffragette City” before the guys returned for the two-song encore, “1984” and “Heroes”. The former number was a poor choice at this point in the evening because the audience wanted to continue dancing and would’ve preferred something a little more upbeat and poppy. Thankfully, they perked up and sang-along to “Heroes”.
The night had been such an enjoyable hop, skip and jump through David Bowie’s catalogue. The Ziggy band had adequately captured the English chameleon’s full range of space oddity and more, allowing things to be free, weird and fun.
Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie Sydney set list:
2. Ziggy Stardust
3. Ashes To Ashes
5. Space Oddity
7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
8. Modern Love
9. The Man Who Sold The World
10. Wild Is The Wind
11. Moonage Daydream
12. Life On Mars
13. Oh You Pretty Things
14. Under Pressure (originally performed by David Bowie and Queen)
15. Sorrow (originally performed by The McCoys)
16. Jean Genie
17. Let’s Dance
18. Young Americans
19. Diamond Dogs
20. Rebel Rebel
21. Suffragette City
Originally published on 21 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/ziggy-the-songs-of-david-bowie-opera-house-18-07-13
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