If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then David Brighton ranks high among all admirers of David Bowie. His Space Oddity show played the Club Soda last night and did a great job of keeping his music alive for fans young and old.
As the lights dropped, a screen behind the stage showed numerous quotes from famous artists and celebrities professing their admiration for Bowie. The musicians made their way to the stage, black silhouettes against the images. The opening riff of “Rebel Rebel” dripped from the distorted guitars and David Brighton, dressed as Bowie’s Thin White Duke, entered the stage. The resemblance is striking even though not always complete; for sure it’s close enough to sell the illusion. But the band is rocking hard, and that’s the heart of the matter. A perfect double who couldn’t do the music justice would be a tragedy.
Like all of the great rock showmen, Bowie’s stage mannerism is very distinctive, and Brighton has the moves down pat. His singing voice is also pretty close, and he emulates his British accent perfectly when speaking. “Golden Years”, “Fame”, “The Man Who Sold the World”… really, why would anyone want a refund?
“Stay”, a deep cut from “Station to Station” allowed the band to stretch out musically in the extended end jam section, and one’s reminded that Bowie has played with some world class musicians in his career: people like Nile Rodgers, Mick Ronson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Brian Eno, and that’s barely scratching the surface. Brighton’s band is also composed of world class musicians with impressive resumes, and they flawlessly reproduced the intricacies of every song. Hearing this material that spans different eras and many different aesthetics being played with a common sound and approach is refreshing. The songs gain a lot of cohesiveness and some really benefit from the rawer approach. “Hang on to Yourself” from “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” in particular, goes from an acoustic mid-tempo song to a full on hard rock electric rocker.
The fanfare of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (also known as the theme from 2001) welcomes Brighton back on stage dressed as Ziggy Stardust for the song of the same name. A surprising version of T.Rex’s “Get It On/Bang a Gong” follows, surprising because I can’t find any instance of Bowie having played it in his career. Of course Marc Bolan and Bowie were good friends and both played a role in the development of glam rock, so it’s not entirely out of place and the crowd doesn’t even bat an eye. “Changes”, “Space Oddity”, “Jean Genie” follow and the classic “Suffragette City” finally gets the crowd on its feet, just in time for the intermission.
For the second act, Brighton sports Bowie’s yellow suit from the “Modern Love” video, and we get many early ’80s tracks like “Let’s Dance”, “Blue Jean”, “Cat People” and “China Girl”. They also tackled “Under Pressure” with one of the guitar players doing a pretty good job covering Freddie Mercury’s parts. “Heroes” closes the show in spectacular fashion.
Back for an encore, the singer hears that a woman in the front row is celebrating her birthday. Recalling his past career in many Beatles tribute bands, he and his band launch into a spirited version of The Beatles’s “Birthday”, with high flying vocals by keyboard player Brooke Naughton. Then the band brings down the house with “Modern Love”. It’s time for goodbyes, but the crowd wants more and will get rewarded with a poignant rendition of “Life on Mars?”
I could write paragraphs on whether or not David Brighton looks, sings and moves like the real David Bowie. But that would be a waste of time; the truth is that we’ll never see the real thing again. Who cares if the resemblance isn’t perfect. A show like this is a chance to spend an evening wth some great music: songs that have been the soundtrack of our lives for 50 years. It’s an opportunity to experience the many personas that this artist adopted throughout his career. And with the crowd up on their feet dancing, clapping and singing, you can say that everyone had a great time.
It takes a lot of guts to bill yourself as the “Ultimate Tribute” to an artist as revered as David Bowie. Is Space Oddity the best tribute to David Bowie? Probably. One thing’s for sure: it is an excellent celebration of the sound and vision of a long and storied career. Promoter Rubin Fogel believed in the show so much that he made a bold claim in the days leading up to it: anyone not convinced in the first 15 minutes could have a refund. One would have been in bad faith to request one. Let’s stop nitpicking and let’s dance instead.