January 27, 2016 Holy Holy Bring Spirit of David Bowie To The Paramount Huntington, NY 1-17-16
Back in the 1970s, David Bowie’s career was about to launch beyond his wilderness dreams. On the heals of what would be widely considered his first hit single in 1969 with “Space Oddity,” 1970 saw Bowie team up once again with friend Tony Visconti to produce his album The Man Who Sold The World. The album would be the first to see Bowie work with Guitarist Mick Ronson and Drummer Mick “Woody” Woodmansey. The year of 1971 saw the team work together once again for Bowie’s Hunky Dory album, but this time minus Visconti, ushering in Trevor Bolder on bass. A sample of what the future would hold as Bowie’s career progressed, the musicians backing Bowie became known as The Spiders from Mars as Bowie was about to change Rock-n-Roll forever with the introduction of Ziggy Stardust for his 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. An intricate part of Bowie’s amazing live shows during the touring for Ziggy Stardust, The Spiders from Mars remained with Bowie through his 1973 album Aladdin Sane, before he made the shocking Ziggy Stardust retirement announcement on July 3rd of that year at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. While the band as a unit would never play on stage ever again with Bowie, each musician would still be apart of his music and life for years to come.
With that all in mind, one has to wonder what would it be like if it was possible to get The Spiders from Mars back together again? Sadly, Ronson passed at the age of 43 back in 1993, and Bolder at the age of 62 back in 2013, both tragically to cancer. Still active and well, fellow bandmate Woodmansey was inspired following his invitation to speak at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London about his time working with Bowie. Teaming up with Guitarists James Stevenson (The Cult) and Paul Cuddeford, along with several other musicians, playing gigs together, hence, giving Woodmansey the itch to want to pursue things further. That is when the idea was born to perform The Man Who Sold The World album in its entirety, and Woodmansey had asked Visconti to join up as bassist, to which Visconti agreed with enthusiasm. In fact, Visconti stated that he, the late Ronson, and Bowie had wanted to do this, but had not been able to. Nonetheless, a new band was born in the shape of Holy Holy including Woodmansey on drums, Visconti on bass, Stevenson on guitar, Cudderford on guitar, Terry Edwards on saxophone/acoustic guitar, Berenice Scott on keyboards, Visconti’s daughter Jessica Lee Morgan on backing vocals, and Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory on vocals.
Doing some shows over the past few years, including a gig in Tokyo in July of 2015, the band finally planned a full North American tour for 2016. Scheduled for January 7th through 21st, stops would include NYC, Toronto, and Cleveland, among others. Then, on January 10th, news came down that the legendary Bowie had passed away at the age of 69 after a private 18 month battle with cancer. Blanketing the world with sadness, including his friends in Holy Holy, with heavy hearts they knew Bowie would want the show to go on. With that, they continued on with the tour, and on Sunday the 17th arrived in Huntington Village in New York at The Paramount to a nearly sold out crowd. With fans lined up around the block as the doors opened, this evening would become a grand celebration of Bowie and his music.
First to the stage was Tony Visconti’s son and daughter Jessica Lee Morgan and Morgan Visconti teaming up together. With music running through their DNA, both have been involved in the art form for many years. Working with others, as well as writing and recording their own music, the siblings shined bright together on stage. Performing with just their voices and acoustic guitars they seemed comfortable and at home on stage as the audience applauded their set. The sound that best described their teaming on stage would be a organic blend of Folk and Acoustic Rock that soothes the ear. Gracious for the response from the steadily growing The Paramount crowd, both the musicians said good night after their performance and some fans were intrigued to learn more about both their careers. There is no doubt the talents of their parents have been passed along to them, so be sure to check them out.
With the entire floor of The Paramount now packed to the gills with eager Bowie fans, the night was just heating up as many anticipated what Holy Holy had in store for them. Having a few drinks and talking amongst each other about their Bowie memories, before no time, Woodmansey and Visconti joined in front of the stage to greet the audience. Admitting it was tremendously hard for them to move on and play following the news of Bowie’s passing, they knew he would want it this way, and with that they choked back tears, took their place on stage, as the rest of the band came out. Opening with The Man Who Sold The World’s opening track, “The Width of a Circle,” the room was rocking from the start. A rather lengthy song, the band sounded tight, heavy, and full as they jammed along. Following with “All the Madmen,” “Black Country Rock,” and “After All,” it became clear they were going to be playing the album from start to finish, just as it was recorded.
Lively and energetic, the band’s full sound was heavily complemented by the impassioned vocal delivery of Gregory. A veteran himself, spending many years in Heaven 17, Gregory’s voice soared on songs like “Running Gun Blues.” Then Woodmansey’s drumming dominated with sheer intensity for “Saviour Machine” as Scott’s key-work dazzled, and Cudderford’s guitarwork blistered. The hard rocking continued on “She Shook Me Cold” as the entire band had The Paramount in a groove, setting them perfectly for the mesmerizing “The Man Who Sold the World.” Provoking everyone to sing along, howls came from the floor as Gregory kept the inflections in his voice vivid and textured. Then, with Edwards on saxophone once more, they rocked into the thick-sounding “Supermen” to close out the album performance.
Now, while it was evident that the band would be most likely playing The Man Who Sold the World, no one had a clue how the rest of the setlist would play out. To the surprise and delight of many long-time Bowie fans, Holy Holy did a fine job of crafting a supplementary set that began with the moody The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust opening track, “Five Years.” A favorite for many, because of the varied dynamics throughout the songs played, Gregory once more channeled his voice perfectly. Keeping along with the same record, they played into “Soul Love” and “Moonage Daydream.” Then they stepped back even further into the early years of Bowie with 1969’s spacey “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud,” followed by favorite, “All the Young Dudes,” as many sang the chorus word for word in unison. Originally recorded by Mott the Hoople in 1972 after Bowie wrote and produced the track for them, he himself began performing the track in 1973, and it still sounds fresh and exciting all these years later.
Jumping around the early Bowie catalog, the band kept interest high as they tapped into Hunky Dory, first with “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and then classics “Changes” followed by “Life on Mars?,” which equally had fans rejoice in sing-along. At the peak of everyone’s heart-racing, they exploded with one of Rock’s greatest songs ever, “Ziggy Stardust.” With nearly everyone moving and throwing their hands in the air, it was pure magic as they were then taken down to a mellower “Lady Stardust” with Jessica Lee Morgan tugging at the hearts of the audience on lead vocals with her beautiful tone. Taking the breath away of the audience, Jessica Lee Morgan humbly bowed and took her place as backing vocals once more as Gregory returned for Aladdin Sane’s “Watch That Man,” and finally the heartbreaking “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” For what seemed a perfect way to close out an already fulfilling show, the band had a couple more tricks up their sleeve. They would come in the form of another Aladdin Sane gem, “Time,” and another Ziggy Stardust cut, “Suffragette City.”
To say that Holy Holy captured the vibe of Bowie would be an understatement. The band, as a unit, was a cohesive monster without a hiccup as they took the audience through a grand journey of the early years of Bowie; hits and deeper tracks included. For the dedicated Bowie fan who is well-versed on the artist’s entire career, they could not have asked for anything more. While the cloud of sorrow hung overhead, with Bowie’s passing on everyone’s mind, the show was a perfect way to remember the genius of his life’s work and no doubt gave listeners a chance to pay tribute to him. While Holy Holy’s North American tour has now concluded, there are hopes that the ensemble will return soon as they do an outstanding job of keeping the rich history of David Bowie alive.