[ADELAIDE PREMIERE ~ AUS ~ IF YOU LOVE… A CURVE BALL]
The Blue Room, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat 15 Jun.
The passing of David Bowie in 2016 left such a massive, gaping hole in the hearts of music lovers and Bowie fans the world over, that it may never fully heal. I have seen many Bowie tributes and celebrations since that time. None of them ARE Bowie, but each celebration of this Man who fell to Earth has been a love-filled catharsis.
Liner Notes Live is a regular fixture in its hometown of Melbourne. It’s a cracking concept and not a straightforward ‘tribute night’ in any sense. LNL pick a classic album and through song, poetry, spoken word, take the audience on a journey. Last night they did The Blues Brothers and tonight it’s David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Released in 1972, Bowie’s fifth album was (kinda) a concept album, about a fictional androgynous bi-sexual rock star guided by aliens. It was seismic on many levels. It was a brilliant record, sonically amazing, but the androgyny, the sexual fluidity, the gay/straight/bi mash-up was, in 1972, as completely shocking for some people as it was liberating for others.
Our host, the excellent red-Bowie-wigged and eye-patched Michael Nolan, is a talented singer, hilarious story teller and the glue that holds proceedings together. Along with The Spiders From Marden (ha!), they kick off with an electrifying Ziggy Stardust. While telling us Bowie’s story he drops gems like “Mime guru Lindsay Kemp noticed that, much like David Bowie himself, one of his pupils was different.”
Cabaret performer Yana Alana takes on Five Years and combining spoken word and powerful vocals takes hilarious liberties with the lyrics, dropping in references to cane toads, ABC raids and climate change. Sabrina D’Angelo turns Soul Love into a performance art piece combining ukulele mime and weirdness. Who do you get to perform Starman? An actual astronomer,Alan Duffy, who turns his piece into a reflection on space travel, ecology, pollution and the legacy we are leaving (or not) to our kids. Maxine Beneba Clarke takes us through her sexual awakening via It Ain’t Easy and Labyrinth.
There is an intermission for us to get a drink and ‘turn the album over’ after which Nolan returns in a different Bowie outfit, for a proper rock through Moonage Daydream. He tells us that it is their custom to skip a couple of tracks but then skip the first half of side two (Lady Stardust, Star and Hang On To Yourself) which I did find perplexing. It is a two-hour show and the entire Ziggy album only runs for 38 minutes, so ditching three of the eleven songs seems…arbitrary maybe? Especially given Ziggy and Suffragette got two goes.
One of the definite highlights of the night was Melbourne rapper Mantra’s take on his own father, music and the life-changing impact of Bowie (“Jesus Christ was finished, I had David Bowie now”). The biggest name on the bill is Angie Hart from Frente. She is given the title track and tells us her musical journey – despite always owning guitars, never mastering the instrument with any proficiency. The guitar was something magical boys did. The fragile nature of her story and her rudimentary strumming as she fumbles through playing the classic riff ends up being very moving. “Tonight is the third time I have ever played a guitar on stage,” she tells us, and I was close to tears.
The conceit of making this show more about each performer’s connection to Bowie or these songs is a powerful one, and at its most potent with Emily Zoe Baker’s take on Rock‘n’Roll Suicide. As a teenage girl she was relentlessly bullied by a group of heartlessly handsome surfer boys. Baker withdrew into herself and the music of Bowie. But then, in a tiny but perfect vignette, an interaction with one of the surfies and her declaration of love for Ziggy brings a euphoric liberation as she sprouts wings figuratively and literally and the entire room erupts in joyous celebration.
That, at its heart, is what makes this edition of Liner Notes Live exceptional. An artist like Bowie is about so much more than the jukebox of hits. He changed music, he changed people, he changed all of us in one way or another. He certainly changed me. Those connections, impacts and inspirations are clear in every performer tonight.
I’m glad they came to meet us and they really blew our minds. Outstanding.