The venue was a beautiful church and the congregation were worshippers of Bowie. This is the church of Bowie and we come to worship to allow ourselves to be immersed in his love and allow the lyrics and notes of his music to wash over us.
The launch of Bowie Songs One was both moving and exhilarating it is a shame that more people couldn’t witness the atmosphere that made this event so special and unique. The church was full to the brim as 250 of the Bowie congregation waited in anticipation of what the night would bring. The Next Day video crossed my mind when Bowie is dressed in robes looking very saintly. I was sure he was looking down and watching tonight’s performance.
It started with an introduction from Clifford for a short cine film of a young Bowie on Denmark Street, literally around the corner from where we were. Clifford Slapper is a very accomplished pianist. He makes you feel he could take any piece of music and make it his own – reinterpret it. And this album is exactly that. Bowie songs reinterpreted looking at Bowie as a songwriter rather than a performer. It is done in an affectionate and respectful way. Bowie and Clifford had worked together and Bowie was aware of this album as the first half was completed before his passing. The choice of songs are varied and from both his well-known and more obscure catalogue. It is a beautiful selection and the singers who have been invited to perform them are equally as varied and beautiful in their interpretation of the songs themselves.
The first performance of the evening was Stay, performed by Marcella Puppini and what an opening performance it was. It is also the first track on the album. Stay feels very soulful and almost that it should have been on the Young Americans album. However, that is something for Bowie fans to discuss for years to come. Ian Shaw is known in jazz circles (I so wanted to write ‘pushing ahead of the dames’ there!) but tonight invited a whole new range of fans as he delivered two wonderful tracks, When You Rock N Roll With Me (which is planned for Bowie Songs Two) and Drive-In Saturday which was sung with such emotion and delivering with his truly fabulous voice as only Ian can.
Oh You Pretty Things was performed by Katherine Ellis. Katherine is better known for dance music but her voice is just amazing and I’m sure she could sing any genre she wanted. Her vocals on this were sublime. She did forget the words and went to get her ‘cheat sheet’ and glasses to read them – but we can all forgive her especially when Clifford tells us that her mother passed away last week and the funeral was yesterday. She had every reason not to be here but still came along and performed. What an amazing person you are Katherine.
Ray Burmiston is Superman. By day he is a photographer who has photographed almost everyone who is anyone (including Bowie), but by night he becomes the most awesome singer with a vulnerability to his voice that hits you in the heart. Ray delivered Always Crashing In The Same Car and his performance is something else. He is full of charisma and has a presence on stage that draws you to him like a drug to keep you wanting more.
David McAlmont sung Sweet Thing. Boy, it really was a sweet thing. His voice lends itself so beautifully to this track and brought me and many of the congregation to tears. With the piano accompanying him it is just a perfect rendition. David also came back to finish the evening with Ziggy Stardust. But this was Ziggy as you have never heard it before. It was soulful and felt it had added meaning. Nothing like the rock version – it was truly stunning.
Funmilayo sang Can You Hear Me and has such a beautiful voice that she absolutely translates this piece of music into something that sent shivers down my spine. A very soulful rendition of this track and her vocals are so impressive that she could turn any song to soul. What a talent! Des De Moor had stopped performing years ago but encouraged by Clifford he performed Slip Away from the Heathen album. It is a stunning track and Des has a unique voice that almost has that London Boy charm of Bowie about it. It was certainly a highlight. Not all the songs on the album were played live leaving those who didn’t have the album already a chance to hear a couple of extra treats.
This was a very special event and one that will be talked about for years to come as the ‘Were you there when Clifford launched Bowie Songs One?’ moment. This event was not done as a ‘cash in’ as many others have been, (don’t get me started on Bowie celebrations in Brixton!), but with thought and consideration not only for Bowie but for his fans too. And let’s talk about the fans. The die-hard fans. You can spot them as they mime along every word. The ones who quietly have a blackstar tattooed somewhere that only other blackstars recognise. The fans that are strong enough to say they don’t love everything Bowie produced the same. Because Bowie was challenging. Bowie wanted to make us think. And Bowie would have loved Bowie Songs One.
This fantastically moving collection of songs are Bowie songs like you have never heard them before and are beautifully composed by Clifford Slapper. Available from http://bowiesongs.com/