Saturday, April 16
Keyboardist Eddie Rayner (Split Enz) has assembled a killer band (most notably Brett Adams, formerly of The Mockers and currently of The Bads, on lead guitar) and with five featured lead vocalists (Wellington missed out on Jordan Luck for some reason) the stage was set for a tribute to David Bowie. All of the hits, or at least as many as two sets and an encore will allow.
After the moody instrumental, Warszawa, Finn Andrews (The Veils) sat at the piano for Lazarus (from Bowie’s final album, Blackstar). Alistair Riddell (Space Waltz) and Zaine Griff (Human Instinct), as lifelong Bowie fanatics, showed, instantly that they had the right credentials and indeed the right sound, carrying off decent renditions of Space Oddity and Jean Genie respectively, cementing the mood.
Of the new blood, Australia’s Olivia Bartley who records under the moniker Olympia (from the Greek for This Year’s Kimbra, presumably) was thin-voiced across Starman and largely unconvincing. She found the notes as the evening continued but relied, mostly, on affectation. And Skyscraper Stan, an annoying presence – part Rhys Darby, part Jar Jar Binks – hammed his way through the material, mostly to huge applause.
The people were out in the streets to celebrate the spirit of Bowie, which meant taking it all, from Riddell rolling nicely through Kooks and Changes to the more danceable late 70s and early 80s hits, Golden Years, Fame, China Girl and Let’s Dance.
An underused Finn Andrews provided the emotional centre of the evening with recent tunes, Lazarus and particularly the poignant Where Are We Now. These songs spoke to Bowie’s fragility in recent years – as well as being magnificent, stirring ballads.
The backing band effortlessly moved through the years and styles, Pat Kuhtze (drums) cleverly playing percussion parts with one hand while continuing the main groove, and the backing singers, particularly Reb Fountain, helped to sell not only the sound but the joy in so many of these songs.
Holding it together in many ways, the extraordinary keyboard work of Eddie Rayner and Mark Dennison, lithe across saxophones and flutes.
And as everyone danced and sang and celebrated one of the most important figures in pop music history you could close your eyes and swear, if only for a second, the whole thing hadn’t been put together as a cash-grab just months after his passing.
This review first appeared in The Dominion Post and online at Stuff here