I've always had a strange connection to David Bowie. When I think of him, several things come to mind. I think of my mother, a diehard Bowie fan. I think of swirling crystal balls in Labyrinth, one of my favorite movies. I think of how I make my own music...something that listening to Bowie encouraged me to do. My association with him was always different, hearing his voice and the way he sang certain words was powerful enough to pierce right through me. Bowie played a huge role in my life, so when I heard that Holy Holy would be performing his entire album The Man Who Sold The World in New York at the Highline Ballroom, I was ecstatic. I knew it would be special, but I didn't know how much it would mean to me a few days later.
I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk.
Holy Holy is a band that includes Bowie's long-time producer, Tony Visconti, and the last surviving member of the original Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars lineup, drummer Woody Woodmansey. Visconti has worked with Bowie on several albums throughout the years including his last two records, The Next Day and Blackstar.
The band ran through the entire The Man Who Sold The World album to an audience of Bowie fans that were singing along and cheering loudly for their favorite song (apparently, every song was their favorite song). Hearing the album live made me fall in love all over again, and even though it was the dynamic Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) performing the vocals instead of Bowie himself, part of me knew this was the closest I would get. Not only was their performance a pleasure to watch, but it was sentimental and nostalgic. Days before we heard the bad news, we were celebrating his life.
After finishing the album, the band played more songs from the Bowie catalog, most from Ziggy Stardust, as Woodmansey was the original drummer on that record. Visconti brought out his daughter (and Holy Holy backup singer) Jessica Lee Morgan to sing "Lady Stardust" and it was beautiful. "Five Years," "Moonage Daydream" and "Life On Mars" were my personal favorites. I was an emotional wreck at the end of "Five Years."
When you're a tribute band, especially one who has worked closely with the original artist, there are some problems that might come up. Since it was both the Blackstar album release day and Bowie's 69th birthday, some people were anticipating a special surprise from the man himself. The band handled the situation well, though. They acknowledged what we were all secretly hoping (I thought there might be a small chance of Bowie coming out, even though I knew he was extremely private) and told us flat out that he wasn't there. However, they did give us a small glimmer of hope and connection. Visconti called Bowie on his cell phone so we could leave a voicemail of the audience singing happy birthday to him. It was a magical moment of unison and intimacy.
Towards the end of the set, Woodmansey came to the front of the stage to share some thoughts about the legend, "After rehearsing every day, it came down to the songs. We all just realized how good all of these songs are."
Experiencing this show meant a lot to me, especially now that I know for sure that I'll never see the real thing live. If you're young like I am, and not as cool as your parents who had the chance to see many of David Bowie's tours, then I highly suggest you check this show out and celebrate a game changing artist who will always be remembered as a legend.
Woody Woodmansey's Holy Holy is touring the east coast through the rest of the month. Tour dates below.
Jan 12 Toronto, ON The Opera House
Jan 14 Alexandria, VA Birchmere Music Hall
Jan 15 Phoenixville, PA Colonial Theatre
Jan 16 Cleveland, OH The Odeon
Jan 17 Huntington, NY The Paramount
Jan 20 Lancaster, PA Chameleon Club
Jan 21 Boston, MA Wilbur Theatre