Aladdin Sane Album
02 Academy, Liverpool
30th November 2017
Reviewed by Rob Harrison
Aladdin Sane is one of my favorite Bowie albums and the inclusion of Mike Garson is one of the highlights, and so it was with great anticipation that I found myself at the Garson gig at the Liverpool 02 Academy.
The show starts in a strange way with an empty stage while schmaltzy Broadway showtime music plays, probably a nod and a wink to the high camp themes that Bowie wanted Garson to incorporate into the album
He was brought into Bowie’s backing band The Spiders From Mars at the back end of the Ziggy Stardust tour.
Garson recalls at the time he thought he would get two to three weeks work out of it, but managed to stick around for the rest of the tour, and then throughout the rest of Bowie’s career.
At the time he was a jazz musician playing around the clubs in New York when he applied for the job of fill in keyboard player, according to legend.
The audition lasted all of five minutes. Mick Ronson, Bowie’s right hand man and musical arranger, stopped him after realising he needed no more demonstrations of Garson’s talent. This guy could play, and the rest is history as they say.
So fast forward to 2017, and the band now appear on stage for tonight’s interpretation of the Aladdin Sane album. Garson has decided to add a female singer Gaby Moreno into the mix, which is a genius move as she’s a brilliant jazz singer.
Most of the Bowie tribute bands have have been guys but the female singer brings out the feminine side of Bowie and gives a genuine edge to the songs.
Drive In Saturday is particularly good and Time stands out too, alongside a camper than camp version of Let’s Spend The Night Together, to finish an awe inspiring lady grinning soul which, in the hands of Gaby and Garson, becomes the jazz standard that Bowie always wanted it to be.
Garson shines through the album with his jazzy brilliance, but of course he was the architect of the piano sound on the original Aladdin Sane album.
We see Garson’s genius at work once again when he covers Five Years, which is good, and later another Ziggy tune Rock and Roll Suicide, whereupon Moreno instructs the audience to gimme your hands. Lots of hands are proffered, and zap, she’s just like Bowie.
Wild Is The Wind is another brilliant highlight to the evening, done in a Nina Simone style, who covered it originally, and Space Oddity, which has interesting bits, complete with stylophone, courtesy of Gillian Glover.
He later teams up with Steve Harley to do the Cockney Rebel song Sebastian. Garson adds his interpretive genius to the song, making it sound like Jacque Brel, tres Bowie. indeed Harley seems happy with it too.
The second half, which covers Bowie’s career, although really good, seems a bit of a crowd pleasing exercise, and not really in the Bowie spirit of not giving the audience what it wants
As Garson has played on many of Bowie’s most avant-garde albums, starting with the improvised piano work on Aladdin Sane, also helping to coordinate the experimental Diamond Dogs album, then fast forward to the later White Tie Black Noise album and the last Bowie/Eno collaboration Outside, the great forgotten Bowie masterpiece.
That’s not to besmirch the quality of the show here tonight. songs like Wild Is The Wind were quite brilliant, but there was a lack of dynamics in some of the more rockier songs.
Obviously Garson wanted to head in a different direction to Holy Holy’s mental mayhem, but Tony Visconti’s arrangements gives the songs the kick they deserve.
But that said it was a great night. Maybe Garson should do Diamond Dogs next with a more crazier second half. That’s a gig indeed.