Review, Uncategorized

Bowie Tribute at Union Chapel

We hear last Monday that there is going to be Starman, a Tribute to David Bowie hosted by the Union Chapel at the weekend. Click the link, buy tickets, and find out what it actually is later.

So on Sunday afternoon we are in Islington waiting Englishly in line for the doors of the Chapel to open. We are still none the wiser, there is no talk of a line up, just a remembrance tree and some face painting.


As we are settle into our pews we are treated to some great songs on the organ (not the stuff on YouTube, we could see the organist) and a pretty good slide show in an awesome setting.


The lights go down, and to get us in started, we are immediately encouraged to get on our feet and start singing “Starman” with Massaoke.

Embarrassing for about 3 seconds, and then we are well in the mood.

We are introduced  Stefan Simanowitz, who organized the event. Not exactly sure how, but pretty impressive. We hear  that he had the day off sick on Monday and then got on to it. The compere was a large blond loud Australian, John Robertson.151105_JonRobertson_small.jpg

He valiantly holds it together with a number of outlandish costume changes .At one moment of disorganisation, he chose to distract the audience with a story of when he and his wife first made love (to the soundtrack of Young Americans).

Lots of lovely unknown people came to the stage, some sounding like acts that may or may not have had Boy George turning for them on the Voice. Keen, shaky, heartfelt. One or two tragically didn’t know the words.

One girl sang “We are the Dead” as a piece of musical theatre (probably not deliberate) and brought to mind that Bowie had originally wanted Diamond Dogs to be a proper stage show.13180443935_cb35a31bfa_b.jpg

Peppered through the live acts was some great footage on the big screen, snippets of interviews, videos (“John I’m only dancing “with Lindsay Kemp mime cutaways, “China Girl”, the MTV interview) all beautifully framed by the majesty of the church.

We were up and down a lot too, just like a real service, joining in with all the familiar hymns.


Who knew “Queen Bitch” would be the first most raucous sing-along?

There were big highlights in the first half – Maggie Ronson sharing her memories and joining in with the band.

Spizzenergy ramping it up with “Andy Warhol” and “Rebel Rebel”.


Suitably punky and energetic, bedecked with light up rings and a belt with rolling neon type. Just the ticket.

A fabulous re-working of “Moonage Daydream” by a talented chap with a guitar.

And marvellously bizarre moments – the woman performing “Where are we Now” on a Saw. A Harpist. A scary man with a glitter facemask that I worry he will never get off.

There was a change of mood when Darren Walsh, winner of best joke at Edinburgh,( Hans free if you remember) showered us with puns and visual gags and a bit of musical jiggery pokery.
He shared a packet of Celebrations with the audience and told us they could be Heroes, just for one day.

He gave us

O         D          D           I              T             Y

(Space Oddity)

My kind of jokes.

Guy Pratt (bass for Roxy/Pink Floyd) talked us through having his photo taken with Bowie as a young musician in Icehouse, and then joined in the playing throughout the night.


There was an interval, time to get a cup of tea and jot down our memories, and then lots more tunes.

We were hoping David McAlmont would turn up. After all we had seen him perform with Bernard at the Union Chapel before, and he does do a Bowie night in South London, so he knew the way there, and all of the words.


And there he was, part of another rollicking karaoke moment, and then gifting us a heartbreakingly beautiful “Sweet Thing”.

Some truly great renditions of many many classics (and then you realise, ALL the songs are classics).

David Baddiel stood up and said pretty much what I say a lot – it wasn’t about being lost or confused for us young North London middle class Jewish Teenagers, it was the music. And he pointed out that Bowie was the best tunesmith ever (I concur).

He called the whole chaotic good-natured slightly strange evening “very North London”.

Des De Moor told us a touching story of his obviously fabulous cabaret show Darkness and Disgrace and treated us to “Slip Away”, which was pretty astounding.

Boe Huntress surprised us with a mesmerising and touching version of Lazarus. Incredible. And brave. Another super talented songstress treated us to “Wild is the Wind” with the help of Romeo Stodart.


The wonderful “Chubby Little Loser” clip from Extras reminded us that Bowie was a very funny man, as did Clifford Slapper’s anecdotes from the actual recording. He said that he was asked to write some chords for the song in case Bowie didn’t, Bowie asked to hear them and then commented that the similarity was “Fucking Spooky”.

Simon Westbrook’s “Time” and Malcolm Doherty’s “After All” showed us how it was done, as did a tall guy in a frock and a frock coat who tackled Bewlay Brothers with verve and guts. With Quaaludes and red wine, Oh By Jingo, I’m starving for me gravy.IMG_0190.jpg

We had a Bad Seed and Dan Donovan from BAD, A Winkie. The Magic Numbers, Dan Gillsepie Sells from the Feeling, a couple of turns from Glen Matlock, Ian Hunter’s lovely daughter and the Featherz.

We heard of chaos backstage, and felt the love in the room.

It ended with all the performers on stage and 900 punters on their feet singing Heroes.


And it was good.

My only regret really that so many performers didn’t get a proper name check, And we didn’t get to give them a congratulatory hug.

Thank you Union Chapel Folks, and of course, thank you David Bowie.



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