Tonight Dublin is honouring two of music’s most iconic figures. Celebrating David Bowie pulls into The Olympia while The National Concert Hall hosts Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday party. The Pogues frontman’s bash is the undoubtedly the hottest ticket in town, and rumours of Bono, Nick Cave even Michael D. swirl around.
Over on Dame Street it’s an altogether more low-key affair – a mere 15 minutes before the announced stage time of 8.00 sharp the crowd is still scarce. Miserable Mondays in January tend to be bad for the soul, even worse for ticket sales.
As it happens there is nothing to worry about, in the time it takes to test the drums and dim the lights throngs of people pile in. Bowie fans are nothing if not punctual.
The first song of the night is performed by two long-term Bowie collaborators, pianist Mike Garson and guitarist Gerry Leonard. With the two of them at opposite ends of the venue’s massive stage their rendition of Loving the Alien is as stripped back as the evening gets. Before it even ends the rest of the ten-piece band emerge from a heavy hanging smoke like a gang of Shinobis. Fishbone’s Angelo Moore storms the stage, resplendent in the first of many elaborate costumes. The first crunching Mick Ronson chord of the evening crashes in and the crowd erupts to Moonage Daydream’s “I’m an alligator!!” clarion call.
From there on, classic after classic is rolled out. The band straddles each of Bowie’s most popular genres from ‘Hunky Dory’ through Ziggy to the Thin White Duke, switching vocalist after almost every song. Theatricality is Moore’s wheelhouse and he takes all of the fast-paced Spiders from Mars material. His frenetic energy fits the bill perfectly. Adrian Bellew takes all the funky 80’s output, much of which he toured with Bowie. Sting’s son, Joe Sumner, takes some of the Ziggy end while bounding around the stage like a dad at a wedding.
Proceedings rattle on at a hectic pace all evening as this band of musically gifted sidemen morph into the most accurate representation of Bowie’s career imaginable. Words can sometimes be wasted but the ‘Celebrating’ in Celebrating David Bowie is most certainly not. It signals the vast difference between a project like this and a tribute act.
Not every musician in Dublin is over at the National Concert Hall. Aslan’s Christy Dignam joins the band for a powerfully emotive version of Five Years before returning to provide backing vocals for Pete Holidai’s (Radiators From Space) All The Young Dudes.
The audience remained captive throughout the almost three hour set. Even The Olympia’s top two shelves were up on their feet. Although given the average age of the crowd it’s with the approval of the stewards’ shrugged shoulders rather than wild abandon. Not just a night for die-hard Bowie aficionados, if you’re over the age of 18 and have ears you’ve probably heard most of the material played tonight. A cracking show and a fitting ‘tribute’ to one of music’s most influential figures.