One epic performance after the next took place on the Orpheum Stage, as David Bowie band alumni shared stories of their early ‘70s recording years and channeled Bowie himself in their performances. Mike Garson took charge of the evening from behind the grand piano, where he shared brief anecdotes about his time with Bowie, introduced the performers and took on some impressive solos himself. At the end of the night, one thing was certain–Bowie was beaming down on the theater as Los Angeles celebrated his best music.
All photos by Brett Padelford
The lavish 1920s-era Orpheum Theater bustled with Bowie fans of all ages, many of whom were sporting fur coats, glitter and fabulous shoes. The band consisted of Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Carmine Rojas, Charlie Sexton and Mark Plati, plus world-class vocalists as Bernard Fowler and Corey Glover, with additional guest vocalists including Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated Evan Rachel Wood, Grammy nominee Gaby Moreno and more on the backing vocals.
“I hope you’re not in a rush to get home,” Garson began the 24-song set with a joke before opening with a soulful ballad fronted by Bernard Fowler, “Bring Me the Disco King.” While there were plenty of noteworthy highlights throughout the two-hour set, a handful of moments made the biggest impression on the night.
Sexton singing “Space Oddity” sounded and looked as though Bowie had come to life on the stage. Evan Rachel Wood’s performance of “Slip Away” with just her and the piano was beautiful and chill-inducing. The duet between Gaby Moreno and Corey Clover for “Wild Is the Wind” was impressively spot-on in harmony. And the ripping piano solo over the 4/4 rock beat was bizarrely captivating, as Garson wailed on the piano in the middle of “Aladdin Sane,” showcasing jazz and classical techniques while referencing pieces like “Rhapsody in Blue” in his improvisation. Garson took a moment to preface his solo by sharing, “watching [Bowie] put together Diamond Dogs was scary.” And Corey Glover’s belting screams on “Young American” were sure to have everyone’s hairs on end.
From “Under Pressure” to the end of the set, the majority of the audience stood up and danced along. And if they weren’t yet, “Let’s Dance” really got them out of their chairs and singing. The audience lingered around in anticipation of the encore, and they were not disappointed. The band continued with Garson’s favorite song of Bowie’s, “Life On Mars?” Completing their encore with “Heroes” really ensured that nostalgia would sink in for the concert-goers. Garson shared it best in a recent Q&A, “One way or another, David is continuously there with us. He’s on stage each night, in the audience and always in the very essence of each song. We do these shows for the fans who’ve loved David and his music, and for those who are new to his music–they’re about to get hooked. Through this process of the celebration of his music, we do these shows for David who is a constant presence in our minds, hearts and soul.”
Bring Me the Disco King
Ashes to Ashes
Sweet Thing (Reprise)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Wild Is the Wind (Nina Simone cover)
Under Pressure (Queen cover)
All the Young Dudes
Life on Mars?
All photos by Brett Padelford