“We’re learning to live with somebody’s depression
And I don’t want to live with somebody’s depression
We’ll get by, I suppose
It’s a very modern world, but nobody’s perfect”
I haven’t done a lot of livestreams, but Mike Garson’s Bowie Celebration “Just For One Day” was inescapable. I mean, they advertised the shit out of it to me. And rightfully so, it featured many people I wrote about ad nauseam in this space.
Description of the event: A Bowie Celebration: Just For One Day! is a global streaming concert that will bring together incredible artists from around the world connected to David Bowie including at least one Bowie alumni band member from every studio album (and more) from his 1969 self titled album to Blackstar, his final album. This is a full concert, beautiful, cinematic, and special with 3+ hours of music in celebration of Bowie’s life and legacy.
There are many types of livestreams, and that is for another post on another day, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with this one. It cost $25 for a “ticket” and there were several upgrade options including various merchandise options, some signed by Mike Garson. There was also an option for a personalized video greeting from Garson…hell, for $5K, he’ll write a song for you!
When I went to log on at 6pm PST on Jan. 9th- Bowie’s Birthday- there was about 10 minutes of nothing, and then Garson appeared with an announcement that the event was going to be postponed for a day. The virus had caused some staffing issues and the production was unable to pull off the event that night.
Interesting… considering everyone involved I fully expected this to be something prerecorded that just happened to debut at this time because it’s Bowie Day. Given this was a livestream in my home and I hadn’t driven or flown anywhere, I went about my business until The Next Day.
Same time, same place the following day, and after a few tech hiccups, I was logged on a we were partially into Duran Duran performing “5 Years”. And they were decked out in a way Bowie would be proud of… in a way any MUA would be proud of! These are not the early pandemic livestreams where you’re like, whoa… I’m probably seeing Post Malone’s rec room and maybe that’s kinda cool? And everyone’s in sweatpants! We’re going beyond that now.
Next up were Lzzy Hale and Lena Hall doing “Moonage Daydream”, which is probably my favorite Bowie song, depending on my mood. They were great! It was pure rock and strong women which is a combo I love. And this was when the production entered some sort of holographic Hollywood Squares phase, which is a reference the kids won’t get. Garson was on a stage, some of the other players were on that stage as well, but the others in these squares were others places. Bonus: if you’re a fan of Lzzy Hale- listen to Robb Flynn’s No F’n Regrets Podcast when she was a guest.
Then came William Corgan– nope, not Billy- from Smashing Pumpkins, performing a very cool version of “Space Oddity” from a tube TV screen on top of Garson’s piano. It was haunting, with this stripped down, piano forward arrangement that ended in a bit of chaos.
“The Man Who Sold The World” was performed by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and his wife Etty Lau and a dancer in a mask. They brought a kind of creepy vaudeville energy, and their set was on a Garson-less stage seemingly live, not a mish mosh of hologram-like screens and live performers.
While I wouldn’t call any performance of the night bad, I just didn’t personally connect with Anna Calvi’s “Bring Me the Disco King” or Gary Barlow’s “Fame”. Somewhere around here, there started to be some production issues when the main performer would finish the song, it was literally like someone unplugged them… they didn’t realize the camera was still on them, and it got a little awkward. Minor complaint, but some of the transitions were a little odd.
Corey Glover of Living Color performing “Young Americans” was amazing. Fuck. If I needed a reason to revisit Living Color’s work, now is the time. But let’s talk a bit about Bowie for a minute. When Bowie died, I picked up the Mark Spitz Bowie book that I had been waiting to read for a while. It’s a bit of a tough read, and in the end, made me poke holes in my idolatry of Bowie, which I think is ultimately what any good biography should do, because artists are people. Except maybe Mr. Rogers… I don’t know what the hell he was. Anyway, Bowie was a culture vulture… just like that other person that shares his birthday who he was a big fan of, Elvis. Do you know about the theory about Blackstar and Elvis? I digress…
What if Bowie were alive today? What would he think about everything that’s going on? The amazing progress that is happening, and then, that’s not? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Gail Ann Dorsey was Bowie’s bassist through the latter part of his career. She performed a gospel-esque “Can You Hear Me”. Then Bernard Fowler performed “Sweet Thing” -> “Candidate” -> “Sweet Thing” (reprise). Decked out in purple, Fowler is essentially a member of the Rolling Stones. His performance was strong.
Charlie Sexton appeared like a Bowie hologram… which I was fully expecting and wouldn’t have been mad at. “Let’s Dance” had a mix of musicians who were there with Garson on the stage and who were “virtual”. We danced in the living room with our cats, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul. Because it’s a livestream and you are the front row, no one cares!
Judith Hill singing “Lady Stardust” was one of the highlights of the evening. One of those beautiful voices that defies genre and if you didn’t like it you’re dead inside. And I’m mostly dead inside and I liked it. I had not heard of her before, but research shows she provided backing vocals to Michael Jackson. Yeah, I still listen to Michael Jackson and R Kelly… I can separate the art from the artist. If you wanna walk that path, enjoy your Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Everything else is canceled.
Macy Gray performing “Changes” was a miss for me. I think she has an incredible voice but maybe it wasn’t the best song to showcase that. After an instrumental “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”, “Conversation Piece” was performed by jazz singer Catherine Russell. At this point, I think many viewers were re-realizing just how many amazing Bowie songs there are, and how many deep cuts some of us need to revisit.
Charlie Sexton was back for “Rebel Rebel”. Then, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard performed “Win” and “Ziggy Stardust”. This was really excellent. Plenty people like Def Leppard but do they really get their due? “Win” made me very, very emo… “Ziggy Stardust” was powerful. Compared to the other artists, Elliott was kept very dark on his screen.
Then suddenly we’re on a beach and in a studio. Taylor Momsen performed “Quicksand” , and while the performance was quite good, I thought the production decision was so jarring compared to everything else we had seen that I just hated it. Especially Bowie scrawled in the sand at the end, come on… cheesy. This felt more in line with the early pandemic stuff- like her manager sent in a video and it was tacked onto everything else. It didn’t flow with the rest of the livestream.
Charlie Sexton was back for “DJ” and “Blue Jean”, cementing his position as the interlude band leader of the evening. I’ve probably seen him play around Austin many times growing up. Let’s take a second to talk about Earl Slick. The long time Bowie guitarist was present in the backing band most of the night. Did you see the documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years? Slick is wearing a Star Wars jacket in his interviews. Yet somehow I can only aspire to exude the kind of coolness this dude does when I get older.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit rusty at this and I didn’t read the entire list of performers in detail, so when the next person started performing, I was like, “Holy shit, is that Dexter?” and then I remembered that he was in the play Lazarus. I also remembered that the app for this livestream had a chat function which I logged onto to confirm this. I have to say that while I did not participate in the chat, watching it did add something to the livestream from there on out. I mean, watching a concert without crowd reactions…..
Next up, supergroup Ground Control, which members include Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction), and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), performed “Rock n Roll Suicide”, “Chubby Little Fat Man”, and “Hang On To Yourself”. By far the most energetic, rock-focused performance of the night, this was filmed on a different stage and did not feature Garson or any of the other Bowie players. I will warn you; this trifecta will make you miss live music. Bad.
In a jarring juxtaposition, back to the main stage we went, and out comes Gary Oldman. Yes, Dracula… but no, he did not suck at all. He was incredible! Performing a mesmerizing version of “I Can’t Read”, I was impressed. It might be better than the original.
Jesse Malin performed “Jean Genie” next, taking us to the streets of New York a bit and to the Bowery. I didn’t find this as out of place as Momsen’s videos; Bowie has strong ties to New York, and they quickly got to a stage. Maybe it’s just my OCD.
Dorsey was back to perform “Strangers When We Meet”, and then Peter Frampton joined the band for “Suffragette City”. It was a straightforward but fun rendition. If you like funny memes, ever seen Frampton Comes Apart?
If you’re back here as a former reader, welcome back. Then you know I’m a big NIN fan, and that’s what I was maybe most know for. You may be surprised then to learn that in 2015 I stopped listening to pretty much all music, including NIN. I heard there have been new records and soundtracks and tours… but I did not partake! Crazy what happens when you just hit a wall. My last five years of listening have been all podcasts, and watching movies, and planting vegetable gardens, and of course working normal jobs. But I’m excited to start revisiting things with a fresh ear.
My first NIN-related thing was watching the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame speech. But this was really fun. First up was Trent Reznor performing “Fantastic Voyage”. A collection of tube TVs with static on them adorned the stage. It was an atmospheric, analog-lounge rendition of the song. It hit that balance between depressing and hopeful.
The next song, “Fashion”, had Reznor joined by frequent collaborator Atticus Ross and his wife Mariqueen Maandig. I immediately got Exotic Birds / Purest Feeling vibes, which I fucking loved… I think this is something NIN fans either love or hate. Which are the only two emotions many of us have these days. The NIN YouTube has the performances already uploaded so you can see them without watching the entire livestream.
“Lazarus” was performed by Ian Astbury of The Cult. I love this song and I love The Cult, and the performance was pretty solid. Something was missing here, but I don’t know what it was.
“Life On Mars?” performed by Yungblud was awesome, but I spent the beginning trying to figure out if they needed to fix his mic. I don’t know who he is because I’m old, but I’ll go check out his music now [update: I did and yep, I’m old]. My husband always reminds me to think about how cool it is that we even lived at the same time as an amazing artist like Bowie. Then I look at the diversity of artists performing at an event like this and the clear reverence they all have for his music, I am reminded how art and ideas live on forever… for better or for worse.
Closing in on the end here, Boy George notched up the performative element for “Lady Grinning Soul”->”Time”->”Aladdin Sane”. And then Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople performed “Dandy” and, of course, “All the Young Dudes”.
Adam Lambert performed “Starman” dripping in green… I mean green hair, green ring, green lipstick, green mic, green everythang! And he wasn’t back on the stage, he was BIG on the TV. “Starman” is one of Bowie’s greatest songs, and Lambert did it justice, adding some alien flair to it, I suppose.
Judith Hill and Andra Day did a heart-wrenching version of “Under Pressure”. I wish the sound was better for this one- the mix seemed really off.
Last, but definitely not least, was a synth-heavy “Heroes” led by Bernard Fowler, dedicated to the first responders. It was a solid way to end this three hour show.
Looking back, I can tell a lot of thought was put into the order and pacing, and obviously the production and arrangements of the music. Outside of my attending the GRAMMY awards or other events that The Recording Academy put on, I can’t imagine attending an event like this in person. And that’s why it was a solid fit for this livestream world.
I loved celebrating Bowie for three hours via this livestream. Did it replace live music? No. It had surprise moments and hiccups like a Pay Per View. I did notice that Gavin Rossdale’s name was on the roster and he didn’t perform. I’m sure pushing the event out a day did cause some disruptions. Ultimately, I’m very glad I did it and felt it was worth $25.
You can still view the livestream through the end of Jan. 10th. here.