5 Oct 2022

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  • Come Together: David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust @ Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland - 20/08/2022

Come Together: David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust @ Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland - 20/08/2022

21 Aug 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Here we are, back in 1972, the year when if you hadn’t heard of David Bowie before, then wham!... an indelible stamp of wonder and amazement and disbelief is delivered to your consciousness for the next 50 years if not forever.

It happened to me a few years before, but the first time it was hardly serious. A chance encounter in the DIC store by a friend of my brother who happened across this obscure record with the familiar name. “Hey Bowie, here’s something with your name on it”. It was fun, it was novelty, it was vaudeville, it was Anthony Newley, it was transitory, it was over.

Until two years later (1969) when Major Tom floated away into acid oblivion and we thought, maybe this guy is real after all. And he’s not even Bowie, but he knows how to pick our name.

For me personally, the cathartic moment was Hunky Dory, with all those Changes and still looking for Major Tom on Mars. But here on earth, this time it was me who was the Bowie guy with the new Bowie record. Joined at the hip, tattooed by the sound of the stylus scratching invisible but forever marks into my soul. David Bowie, the guy who also made my name pre-eminent if not pronounceable. But better than Jones.

And Ziggy Stardust became the moment when my little secret was shared with the world, and there was life on Mars after all, even if creepy and furry and eight legged. A reach to the stars, before Ziggy died a year later, a lad insane in a rock and roll suicide.

Five Years will be the test, as I awake from my reverie to a packed Aotea Centre. If these guys can nail Five Years, then all will be well.

It’s Come Together for Ziggy Stardust (The Rise and Fall of with the Spiders from Mars) night, a by now familiar formula from Liberty Stage to set all those classic albums free on stage to be worshipped by New Zealand’s eclectic finest. And that’s just the musicians!

For whom this is a labour of love and homage and at times considerable challenge as the greatness of Bowie is rammed home by the diversity and range of the voice and the chart. All the different voices on stage tonight are emulating one man, and one man only. It takes a talented team to cover it all. The usual suspects are here, conducted and co-opted by Jol Mulholland (guitar and vocals) as Musical Director. Alastair Deverick on drums, the genius of Finn Scholes on percussion and trumpet, Nick Atkinson on Sax, Matthias Jordan on piano, Mark Hughes (new), on bass, Neil Watson (standing in for Brett Adams) on slowhand guitar. Plus a bevy of vocalists, Lou’ana, Deva Mahal, our latest Taite winner Antonie Tonnon (Tono) and the ubiquitous Jon who tonight is just Toogood. Missing in action, the aforementioned Brett Adams and the snarling intensity of Delaney Davidson, both of whom are recent victims of COVID. Never mind, the others step up (but get well soon to you both).

The most famous drum plod in rock history, and the best song always, the doomsday dirge and dystopian drama of Five Years, that’s all we’ve got, what a surprise, it’s female and momentarily a puzzle, it must be the hair, but yes it is Lou’ana, all hammer and nailing it, and I breathe a sigh of relief, you just cannot, must not  fuck this song up, it’s the most important song of our time, if not tonight, and we’re off on Soul Love (Tono) and a Moonage Daydream, ably delivered by Jol but we’re missing Brett.

You know the album, it’s the soundtrack of your youth, and tomorrow’s as well, and Lou and Jol and Tono and Deva take us through side one and it is easy even though It Ain’t Easy  and then Jon Toogood fronts from the backing singer line-up and transforms the night from good to great because his hair is long and he’s less flamboyant and he just lets his Bowie voice rule like a leopard messiah. What about Suffragette City, wham bam thank you (can’t say it these days)? Starman and Star and Lady Stardust and Ziggy Stardust leave you in no doubt that we’re out of this world until it ends with a bang, and a shot and a Rock and Roll Suicide. No more Ziggy (well, not until next year), but we’re wonderful and it’s over before it begins and we’re dazed and confused for the entire interval.

And then the indulgence and the impossible task of summarising the rest of David Bowie’s career in 16 songs, but we grasp eagerly at each new intro to guess the song before it starts. 16 songs from 12 albums from 1969 to 2016 and you can make your own playlist but you’ll never get it right because there’s just too much. And any selection will be majestic so don’t worry, we’re all Heroes so just indulge in the moment and dance in the aisles or just stand up and boogie and steel your senses to the onslaught. Check the setlist for the usual suspects but we didn’t see Lady Grinning Soul coming nor did we expect Deva to be so impishly delighted to be Afraid of Americans. (But we have to be, they’re some Scary Monsters). Diamond Dogs and Rebel Rebel, Fame and Young Americans, Let’s Dance to Modern Love and the Ashes to Ashes  of The Man Who Sold (us) the World before Lazarus resurrects us all to be Heroes, which is also everybody’s favourite Bowie song.

All of these prophetic tales of gloom and disaster and greed and strife in a legacy of song and dance and light and that is David Bowie, a Black Star still shining, and also to close the show a tribute to one star no longer shining with a snapper and a drumstick twirl and an irreverent leer from the sadly departed Michael Knapp who is no doubt still revering Bowie wherever he is now.

Part 1 Setlist: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (you know all the songs, and they were played here tonight)

Part 2 Setlist:

1. Rebel Rebel (Diamond Dogs)

2. Jean Genie (Aladdin Sane)

3. The Man Who Sold the World (From that album)

4. Lady Grinning Soul (Aladdin Sane)

5. Spacy Oddity (David Bowie)

6. Ashes to Ashes (Scary Monsters and Super Creeps)

7. Fame (Young Americans)

8. Where Are We Now (The Next Day)

9. Life on Mars (Hunky Dory)

10. Modern Love (Let’s Dance)

11. Young Americans (From that Album)

12. Let’s Dance (From that Album)

13. I’m Afraid of Americans (Earthling)

14. Diamond Dogs (From that Album)

15. Lazarus (Black Star)

16. Heroes (Even If Just For One Day)

Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk / ZED Pics
View the full gallery here


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Here we are on a cool, wet spring night, but as always, it’s warm inside the Wine Cellar. In The Shallows were originally on this bill but have been plagued by some ill health and we can guess what that might be, so instead Looking for Alaska step up and, no surprise, invite their old mate Chris Dent (Albi) along to open the show.
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Mel Parsons’ 5th album is out today, September 16 and it’s been a Slow Burn, a journey of highs and lows as the world of lockdown and locked out intervened in thousands of creative processes sometimes positively other times depressingly and if nothing else this record is a reflection of these times. The opening track, Lights “when the lights can’t always be on, you can’t expect that I’ll always be strong” captures the malaise which follows a pandemic, and the dark flavour and nuance of the songs on Slow Burn often conflate the sense of generic, world melancholy with deep personal issues.
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Shit, Marlon’s gone poppy. Not just My Boy.
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The moment Tennessee Dancing strikes up, we know we are in a deep country space. Somewhere just out of Nashville, maybe a famous farm, maybe an even more famous figure, but actually, no, fooled you, we’re in the country alright, but close to home, in our very own Waikato country.
Jenny Mitchell - Album Review: Tug of War
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Jenny Mitchell releases her third album on July 22nd. It’s Tug of War, a collection of sweet songs which see Jenny wear her heart on her sleeve and talk about all the pushes and pulls of a still young life where “things don’t always work out the way they do in your mind”.
Gig Review: Miles Calder @ Wine Cellar, Auckland - 2/07/2022
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There’s a warm and welcoming atmosphere tonight in the Wine Cellar. It seems to be lighter along with the mood.
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