The Vic Theatre (3145 N. Sheffield Ave.) was the 10th stop on the American tour of “Celebrating David Bowie” Feb. 23. A tribute to the late, great artist who passed away in January 2016, the ensemble is comprised of Bowie’s friends, bandmates and other talented musicians. Rocking out in true Bowie style, the passion of the artists and the crowd captured the love for Bowie and for his music’s power to bring them together.
New York native and former Rolling Stones vocalist Bernard Fowler sang Bowie’s 2003 single “Bring Me the Disco King” under starry blue lighting to open the concert. Singing in unison, the crowd connected with an appreciation for Bowie’s musical genius and legacy beginning with his self-titled album in 1967.
Once the rest of the band came onstage for the 1974 hit “Rebel, Rebel,” Mike Garson, Bowie’s bandmate since 1972, introduced the rest of the members of the tour. Among them was Earl Slick, a guitarist of Bowie’s since 1974, Mark Plati, who worked with Bowie in the ‘90s and Gerry Leonard, who worked with Bowie from 2002 until Bowie’s death in 2016.
As the night progressed, brilliant onstage light displays illuminated the most well-known songs of Bowie’s career. Fowler was one of three singers to pay tribute to Bowie throughout the concert. Fowler, along with Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno and rock icon Sting’s son Joe Sumner, emulated Bowie’s mannerisms and style of singing to again give the music the life it once had.
Hits such as “Changes” and “Moonage Daydream” got the crowd singing along, while commentary from Garson and Slick helped transform the music into a chronology of Bowie’s life and story he created behind the curtain of his fame.
The middle of the set felt a bit drawn out, since many of Bowie’s top songs were played in the first half. However, the constant changing of instruments and singers kept the concert fresh with different variations performed on the legend’s classics.
The chemistry of the ensemble and the breathtaking singers created a unique experience on its own. The combination of some of the top musicians in the rock world performing together unsurprisingly put on a spectacular show.
The sheer enjoyment and passion of Fowler and Sumner kept the audience excited for every song, while Moreno stole the hearts of the crowd as she held every note and sang Bowie’s music beautifully.
Just when the concert seemed to be winding down, the classic 1972 single “Suffragette City” reenergized and rocked the whole auditorium.
The concert closed with a four-song encore, which Leonard kicked off with an “Andy Warhol” solo. Even though most of the crowd might not have known the song, the appreciation for Bowie was rewarded by a devoted crowd that shouted for Leonard.
Sung by Sumner, a beautiful rendition of the emotional 1977 ballad “Heroes” was the closing song the concert needed. Belting “We can be heroes,” the crowd came together one final time to honor Bowie’s legacy.
As the ensemble took its final bow, the peppier 1983 “Modern Love” played through the speakers as a last feel-good moment to share with the band.
With the crowd and band singing and bopping to the same beat, there were moments which made the tribute show inside the small Vic Theatre feel like a stadium tour with Bowie himself. The magic in the high quality performers, in addition to the original band members, made this concert the perfect way to pay tribute to one of rock’s biggest and most revolutionary icons.
“Celebrating David Bowie” will continue to tour North America through Mar. 19.