Bowie Lounge - Cornwall Live
Review by Lee Trewhela
Pictures by Tam Johnstone
I feel sorry for people who missed out on this very special evening … and it really was very special; a multi-media meeting of musical, theatrical and artistic minds. How very Bowie.
Three years ago, Keith Sparrow - known for his work with Duchy Opera, Story Republic and his comic book artistry - put together a disparate band of rock'n'rollers, classical musicians, thespians, dancer Star and renowned Cornwall-based painter Paul Wadsworth - to celebrate the work of David Bowie.
Playing only in Penzance and Falmouth, it was an astonishing show which deserved a bigger life.
Well here it is again, bigger and better. Receiving a standing ovation last week at The Poly, Falmouth, it attracted an even more riotous reception in the wonderful surrounds of the Old Bakery.
An atmospheric mix of Warhol's Factory and underground rave lair, the art warehouse staged an impressive exhibition of Bowie-related installations by Bowie Lounge participants and their friends. That and the subsequent concert conjured images of David's own Beckenham Arts Lab happenings in the late '60s. He would have approved of the whole jaw-dropping affair.
Much more than a tribute, this theatrical mix of quotes (by everyone from Grayson Perry to Kate Bush), rock star posing and songs which ran from 1969's Letter To Hermione to this year's swansong, Lazarus, was the best homage many of us have witnessed. You can keep your Brits, Grammys and Proms.
What made it more memorable, and much more than a standard gig, was the collision of two worlds - drummer Liam Jolly and guitarists Stanley Duke and Toby Seth from dirty planet rock and remarkable pianist Paul Drayton and violinist Juliet Walshe from the classical camp, with Keith straddling both like a palatable Bono.
And, boy, can he sing … fantastic versions of Lady Grinning Soul (surely the most underrated Bowie song?), a soulful Can You Hear Me? with the plastic element melted away and a rare outing for The Bewlay Brothers, which Bowie himself only played live twice (I was fortunate to be present on one of the occasions). It's my favourite song of all time, so thank you for that Keith, you did it proud.
He is ably assisted by the grace and class of Elaine Claxton. Better known as an actress, she proved she also has a beautiful singing voice, especially on a version of Modern Love, slowed to half its pace, revealing the song's questioning heartbreak.
Opening with Lazarus, Bowie's still chilling dying admission, and ending with the always-moving Where Are We Now? meant there were lumps in throats. I could only agree with the chap who collared me for a chat afterwards and said he still gets tearful nine months after Bowie's passing. You may mock but there were at least 100 people present last night who know exactly what he means.
It wasn't all wracked emotion, as this was a joyful night with colourful renditions of everything from Starman to Heroes.
Just to add to the sense of occasion, Wadsworth flogged his onstage paintings for a tenner each after the show. My Ziggy Stardust explosion of colour is not at all crass. In fact, it's the naz with God-given ass.
This stunning event at the Old Bakery (which has a very bright future) and the packed Oktoberfest across the road could be the start of Truro enjoying a night-time renaissance.
If you love music and artistry at its most inspired then don't miss the last Bowie Lounge night at St Ives Guildhall on Saturday.
As a chap said to me halfway through the performance: "This is so good it could tour the world."