Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival Theatre. 16 Feb 2017
Tonight’s concert was a well-received salute to the career of the legendary David Bowie, who sadly died just over a year ago from cancer. To say that he was controversial and an innovator is an understatement. His music was distinctive, and it soars when it is seen, as well as heard – the visuals are all important.
Above the mighty assembled forces of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was a giant lightning bolt, the sort that was emblazoned over the face of Ziggy Stardust. The myriad number of LEDs built into it became an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and became a focal point for the performance. It almost smacked of iconography. (Is there a symbol that encapsulates Bowie?). In front of the orchestra was a six-piece band: drum kit, grand piano – always impressive to look at, but wasted on this occasion – assorted guitars and hand-held percussion. Five vocalists stood in front of them all, mostly costumed in ways to help ‘sell’ the songs they sang. The stage was full, and the stimulating iridescent lighting plot was empathetic to the music. The visuals were impressive, but the vocals did not always soar to the same heights.
Bowie is singular and his various musical personas are idiosyncratic. To bring them to life without becoming cheesy and (dangerously) stumbling into trying to ape his style, needs the performer to bring something special and more than pub-singing to the challenge.
iOTA was first up with Space Oddity, and he was superb. He looked the part and inflected the piece with the requisite mix of angst and derision; the sound mixing wasn’t quite up to the mark however. His depth of understanding of the songs was a highlight of the evening, as was his theatricality, his musicality and the sheer force of his fine voice. Everything he sang demanded to be watched and listened to intently. His Ashes to Ashes was touching, and the carefully constructed sparseness of his Life on Mars was something Bowie himself would have approved of. The musical arrangement was ‘just right’ and the might of the orchestra did not get in the way as it did in some other pieces.
iOTA was the standout, but Deborah Conway also helped carry the success of the concert. Conway’s husky performances of Ziggy Stardust and Oh You Pretty Things were also highlights. Tim Rogers at times looked as if he was channeling Elvis, and his performance strengthened and became more stylised as the programme unfolded. His rendition of Lazarus was captivating. Adalita was a foil for iOTA, Conway and Rogers. She injected ‘coolness’, but it just wasn’t Bowie. However, her duets and trios were well received by the large audience, in particular Suffragette City and Fame. Steve Kilbey was vocally lack-lustre throughout the evening, but Changes and China Girl were well handled.
The concert was named after the album Nothing Has Changed, which is a compilation album by David Bowie. It was released in November 2014 and is the first album to showcase Bowie's entire career, and it included previously unreleased material. The album peaked at number 5 on the UK charts following Bowie's death in early 2016 and a revised version was released in November of the same year.
If they could have physically handled it, the performance of the play list would have been more impressive if it was just sung by iOTA, Conway and Rogers.
The very large audience just adored this concert, and it is a testimony to the genius of Bowie that mature ladies in their 70s enjoyed the concert as much as those who were in their 30s!
Thank you ASO.
Thank you band.
Thank you singers.
But most of all, thank you David Bowie.
When: 16 and 17 Feb
Where: Festival Theatre