musings, Recipe, Uncategorized

At the Centre of it all

a personal reviewIMG_4013 (1).jpg. Kings Cross Theatre. 3rd November 2016

I told my friend I was going to Lazarus, the David Bowie Musical. She of course looked thrilled and excited for me. “Amazing” she said.

I retorted, “He’s not in it!”

We guffawed; there was some nervous laughter, and guilt. Too Soon? Of course, Too Soon. Certainly Too Soon for me. But the comedy timing was admirable.

The show is playing Kings Cross theatre, bang in the middle of the new thrilling and confusing, unfamiliar and rather jolly. Boulevard. The theatre, a purpose built shed structure, divided in two, one half showing The Tempest (which was Tempting) and the half other Lazarus.

The audience was as you would expect, well healed, nicely dressed, or Dressed Up, with a touch of fervor behind the eyes. Mostly middle aged, some young, a lot of cool and classy.

We are told that the performance is two hours long. No interval. You can leave but you may not be allowed back in (okay, not for 20mins or so). So this led to a “when do we pee” panic – could explain the fervor in the eyes.

As we settle in our seats, we see Michael C Hall wander on to stage and have a little lie down. This is twenty minutes before ShowTime. It is a little awkward. I feel for him, unless maybe it really is the best place for a power nap.

The premise is a loose sequel to Man Who Fell to Earth. Our alien is still trapped on earth, , not getting older, drinking gin, watching TV,  knowing that he can’t get home. He misses Mary-Lou and indeed it would have been nice to see Candy Clark.

The set is the apartment that Thomas Newton never leaves.

The physical propping consists of a rumpled bed and a fridge full of mother’s ruin.

At the back of the stage, the live band play displayed through glass windows.

Centre stage, a screen. Sometimes lots of screens. I thought I was over screens. But I am an idiot.

The projection and visual trickery is  incredible, impressive,  remarkable. I won’t  describe how it works so as not to spoil the surprise and awe. Also, I can’t find the words to get across quite how exhilarating.

I can say there is technical wizardly. The FX are seamless, delightful and surprising. The design is impeccable, the execution effortless. Virtual, physical, ever shifting. A feast for the eyes and ears. Lighting design to delight, that also does a job.

It was actually  raining on the roof which added some pretty special atmosphere.

The whole thing is Magic in a digital literate age.

I had read that this wasn’t the Mama Mia Greatest Hits genre of musical, that the story wasn’t a way to thread a load of songs together.

But it kind of was. Certainly the songs enhanced and punctuated the narrative.

Maybe it is just that Bowie’s oeuvre is so rich, all his songs can work to whatever storyline.

The opening track, the heartbreaking Lazarus, was beautifully performed. When it was released in back in sad Blackstar January, we all retrospectively understood it was about Bowie’s upcoming death. Johan Renck’s visuals enforced that. Now, not so sure.

Now it sounds like it was written specifically for Thomas Newton’s not-old age.

And that is another wonderful Bowie facet. Whatever he writes, you can find some significance that works for you at the time. Lyrics and mood appropriate and ready for anything.

“Kooks” targeted directly at you because you were a different kind of kid.

“Heroes” for our brave troupes.

“Laughing Gnome” a piece of ironic future proofing  theme for Alan Sugar.

“Sue” for me!

Predictably, all the songs were phenomenal. The new ones, the old ones reworked, the classics and the novelty. From a raucous All the Young Dudes to a charming Absolute Beginners. Changes , changed, all for the good.

Somehow all the vocalists captured Bowie’s tone. They never quite made the songs their own, but nor did they mimic. Clear and strong and meaningful. But it is a funny old thing, how singers on the stage take on that Musical style. It was subtle, but it was there, and made me wonder how they would fare on The Voice.

After we were introduced to a China Girl early on, I realised that the staging was littered with references and reverence. I probably missed quite a lot, but that didn’t spoil the ride. Good spotting for the uber hard-core fans, rather than me, kind of superfan, but soft-centred.

The story is a bit silly. The characters are fascinating and often confusing. The pace erratic. Great highs of engagement, sometimes not so much, and there is a proper ending.

Maybe if it wasn’t The Dame I might view the whole as a touch self-indulgent and beside itself. Perhaps I have buttons over my eyes and stardust in my sound and vision. But I don’t think so.

There is so much good and clever and original and slick and powerful and emotional and so damn interesting about it. There are some great moments of levity to stop it taking itself too seriously. The cast do it more than justice, the set design and execution is off the scale. And of course the music.

So I think it would stand alone on its own merits.

But undeniably,

At the Centre of it All is…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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