Just over twelve months ago the world lost one of the most greatest artist the world has ever known. David Bowie was a larger than life, singer, songwriter, fashion icon, cultural force, cracked actor, remarkable in almost every way. The outpouring of love for this man and his music over the last year has been overwhelming and constant. There have been many tributes and celebrations of Bowie on many different scales, and while all of them were coming from a genuine love of the man and his music, David Bowie : Nothing Has Changes was something very special indeed.
The danger with a show like this is it could easily get too cheesy, or turn into a big scale karaoke show. This was never going to be an issue tonight. Combining some of the best known voices in Australian music with a kick ass band and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Nothing Has Changed delivered an evening that was celebratory, respectful, sexy, moving and fun. And the fun in what Bowie gave us should never be forgotten, it was an element in much of what he did. Not in a boom tish way, but there was always a cheeky wink in his art, a playfulness that was an element of why we loved him like we did.
The ASO do that tuning up thing and the ‘rock’ band lead by the talented Ash Naylor (Even) and featuring You Am I’s Davey Lane on guitar, open with Space Oddity with iOTA taking lead vocals. Of the featured vocalists tonight he is probably the least well known, but he is a pretty interesting cat. He has released half a dozen albums that range from acoustic/blues to fragile atmospherics and electric rock. He has appeared on stage as Frank’n’Furter in Rocky Horror Show and as the lead in Hedwig & The Angry Inch. He is also the flame throwing guitar player in Mad Max : Fury Road. I know right! He is dressed in a Bowie-esque outfit with white face make-up and armed with a voice that is full of drama and power. His take on the 1969 classic is a perfect start to tonight’s journey. Deborah Conway has one of the most powerful voices you’ll ever hear on a stage and she smashes Starman with great style.
As the band and Orchestra starts All The Young Dudes, Tim Rogers takes the stage a blur of flamboyant hand gestures and rock star poses. I fuckin’ LOVE Tim Rogers. He is, much like Bowie himself, in equal parts rocker, artist, poet, raconteur and tonight very much the showman. All The Young Dudes was written by Bowie for Mott The Hoople when they were about to split up due to no chart success. After turning down Suffragette City (what were they thinking?), Bowie whipped up their biggest hit. Rogers introduces Adalita (Magic Dirt) by saying he has known her for twenty five years “…and now that we are in our early thirties, she is the only Rebel that matters”. She cranks through Rebel Rebel and Jean Genie, the classic rock anthems being enhanced by the canny orchestral arrangements adding many musical layers to the mix. Front man from The Church Steve Kilby looks excited to be here and turns in a good take of Diamond Dogs.
Each new song is met with gasps of recognition and love gushes through the room. It has been a year but the wound left by Bowie’s departure is still very raw. It still hurts like hell. And while it is probably coincidence in the thirteen months since Bowie died it seems like the whole world has gone to shit. Wars, Trump, new levels of intolerance, sexism, racism, conservatism and negativity in every direction you look, it’s not to think the whole world just went ‘Oh well, what is the point of even trying anymore’. Bowie represented the polar opposite of all those things. Experimentation, acceptance, art, love, inclusion, the celebration of the different. His music and his art will last forever. But the chance to see possibility where there had only previously been the bleak grey status quo stretching out into the distance, that was his real gift to us all.
Deborah Conway devastates us with her powerful version of Ziggy Stardust and then joined by iOTA for a killer Suffargette City. Tim Rogers joins her for a playful and funky Fame. One thing I loved about this show (among the many) was the extremely subtle nod to Bowie’s chameleon and ever changing image and look, with almost everybody changing outfit for each different song. Not costumes at all, just different shirts, jackets, dresses. No attention drawn to it at all, but I noticed and it was appreciated. Kilby delivers China Girl, written for Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot but also a huge hit for David six years later when he reclaimed it on his massive Let’s Dance album.
Conway returns for an amazing Oh You Pretty Things from Hunky Dory. Adalita and Rogers exchange lines gleefully on Sorrow, dancing with each other and inspiring sing-a-longs in the audience. The first set concludes with an indescribably good Life on Mars from iOTA. He is simply incredible. His voice shimmers and soars, his whole physicality is theatrical and evocative.
During intermission people exchange excited talk, swap Bowie stories and freshen up as there is still another hour to go. The set list isn’t the most adventurous one possible, but it is wall to wall favourites and hits, giving the best bang for your buck to the widest amount of the audience. I might have liked a bit of Queen Bitch, Magic Dance (from Labyrinth) or even You Little Wonder, but any show like this is going to leave some people grumbling about his best work or lack of personal favourites. I’m not complaining by the way, it was exemplary all around and the second half provided some stellar highlights.
Steve Kilby opens the second half with Station To Station and is wearing a white shirt and black waistcoat ala Thin White Duke. Kilby has an excellent voice and has been responsible for many, many great and classic records. Tonight they have chosen his song carefully and he does a good job, but all the other featured singers have a power and grunt to their performances which Kilby’s tracks to some degree, suffer by comparison. Ash Naylor (of Even fame) steps forward to the mic for a absolutely smashing Moonage Daydream, which is rapturously received. More funky fun from Rogers and Conway on Golden Years followed by Kilby on Changes probably his best performance tonight. Timmy returns for a glorious Young Americans and the orchestra are shining too.
Davey Lane steps up for a rocking Boys Keep Swinging, utilizing much of the stage and pumping up the energy in the room. If there is one thing wrong tonight is that you have this huge orchestra and a killer band with two of the countries finest guitar players, playing the Bowie catalogue of music with classic guitar parts, but when they get to the monster lead guitar parts you can hardly hear them in the mix. Davey Lane was playing the living shit out of the Boys Keep Singing riffage and you could barely hear him. Adalita returns for an amazing Modern Love and is joined by iOTA for Let’s Dance and finally, the audience does. It’s hard in the Festival Theatre sometimes it’s a bit austere and not dancer friendly, but so many people are on their feet, the joy and movement spreads like wildfire through the theatre.
Ashes to Ashes is stupendous (iOTA again) and brings the pace down slightly but the dancing doesn’t stop. The band and orchestra starts to play Lazarus from Bowie’s final album Black Star. It is a record I still have trouble listening to, it’s all still too raw. The way the context of the music and lyric shifted dramatically between the day it was released and his passing a few days later was seismic. And the album seemed to be an elaborate and intimate goodbye note, ever the artist in even the face of his own impending demise. The lights go very low and Tim Rogers appears backlit by rotating lights. He is wearing dark pants and just a white singlet and his reading of Lazarus is sublime. Emotional. Almost overwhelming. His hand reach out of the light and into the darkness. He drops to his knees and is eventually lying on the stage reaching towards the audience , embodying the feeling that this song perhaps more than any other song ever, was a love letter to us from our dearly departed. “Look up here I’m in heaven…” sing Rogers and the tears began rolling down my face.
Recorded as the opening track on Ziggy Stardust in 1972, Five Years has become another song that has had it’s meaning or place in Bowie history morphed with his death. It is a song about the impending decimation of the Earth and what you do with that knowledge when you have five years to think about it, ponder upon it and know it’s inevitable conclusion is closer each day. That we now know David knew he was dying for quite a while, the song has grown more meaning by association in recent times. Tim, Deborah and iOTA do a fantastic job and I should have brought more tissues.
Everybody returns to the stage for the finale of Heroes. Everybody is on their feet. Everybody is singing loud enough that it sounds like they are trying to make David hear it wherever he is. People are embracing and there are more tears. It is a magnificent and fitting end to an exceptional celebration of a man, his music, his art and his life. The ASO were brilliant, the band amazing and all the vocalists gave everything they had, to farewell the Man Who Fell To Earth.
Review by Ian Bell
Space Oddity – iOTA
Starman – Deborah Conway
All The Young Dudes – Tim Rogers
Rebel Rebel / Jean Genie – Adalita
Diamond Dogs – Steve Kilby
Ziggy Stardust – Deborah Conway
Suffragette City – Deborah Conway + iOTA
Fame – Deborah Conway + Tim Rogers
China Girl – Steve Kilby
Oh You Pretty Thing – Deborah Conway
Sorrow – Adalita + Tim Rogers
Life on Mars – iOTA
Station to Station – Steve Kilby
Moonage Daydream – Ash Naylor
Golden Years – Tim Rogers + Deborah Conway
Changes – Steve Kilby
Young Americans – Tim Rogers
Boys Keep Swingin’ – Davey Lane
Modern Love – Adalita
Let’s Dance – Adalita + iOTA
Ashes to Ashes – iOTA
Lazarus – Tim Rogers
Five Years – Tim Rogers, iOTA + Deborah Conway
Heroes – Tim Rogers, Adalita, Deborah Conway, iOTA + Steve Kilby