“We’re all here because we love David,” – this sentiment noted by Tim Rogers, was the feeling that prevailed throughout the night, as Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed ‘David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed’ inside the spectacular walls of Hamer Hall. It’s no easy feat to attempt to encapsulate the bewildering scope of David Bowie‘s musical contributions to the world. Through his days of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, to the Berlin Trilogy, he was pop music’s greatest chameleon.
Through the night, Rogers was joined by the likes of iOTA, Deborah Conway, Adalita and Steve Kilbey as they covered David’s most beloved hits through the ages, up until his tragic passing earlier this year. Conway as always was the consummate professional, having 30 years experience in the Australian music scene, she took David’s classics and made them her own. Her husky vocals paired perfectly with ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and accompanied by piano, sang a beautiful minimalist rendition of ‘Oh You Pretty Things’.
While Adalita was an energy-packed delight, her voice really gave an interesting curve to Bowie’s signature sound. Following on from featuring in the dedication concert of Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’, proving Adalita as somewhat of a chameleon herself. She was perfectly cool in ‘Rebel, Rebel’ and exuded swag as she worked the stage and brought the Magic Dirt rock-sensibility to the evening.
Kilbey‘s voice best befitted the vocal tone of David, but he did struggle in some of the later performances, as his vocals strained. But he was pitch perfect on ‘China Girl’, accompanied by impressive vocalist Robyn Loau. While ‘Station to Station’ was Kilbey at his effervescent best, in an impassioned plea to the audience.
iOTA donned in Bowie ‘Ashes to Ashes’ fabulousness was a standout. Drawing in eyes the entire night, in his theatrical and artistic interpretation, his booming voice burst through the noise and demanded attention. Kicking off the evening with climactic anthem Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, iOTA’s seering deep vocals cut through the room like a knife, taking the audience on a journey outside the big blue, descending away from planet earth.
His stripped-back version of ‘Life on Mars’ closing the first act, left not a dry eye in sight. On a dark shadowed stage, illuminated in a spotlight and animated in motion, his roaring but delicate vocals were something to be witnessed.
The pinnacles of the night were found during the more somber numbers. While Rogers exceeded himself in the faster-paced songs, his highlight was a devastating rendition of ‘Lazarus’, bathed in sorrow and longing for a last breathe. Rogers wringed down the microphone, gasping through each painful note. It was agonising to watch but no one would dare look away.
The servings of duets were not always on par. While ‘Sorrow’ by Rogers and Adalita fizzled out a bit, ‘Suffragette City’ with iOTA and Conway was a party-starter. ‘Fame’ with Conway donning a blonde wig and Rogers in a Thin White Duke hat, was also a fun number and played with Bowie comedic disposition.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was expectantly pitch perfect, the strings particularly thriving in the opening to ‘Station to Station’. Lighting was thoughtfully engineered, with Bowie’s trademark lightning bolt standing high and shining bright above Hamer Hall, as colour, saturation and brightness were utilised in spades.
The night being so split by interpretation, costume and performance, did give the evening a disjointed feeling. A smaller number of artists may have given the overall night more cohesiveness. Similar to having too many cooks in the kitchen, the night perhaps had too many dedicators in the dedication. But this feels appropriate for a man who wore so many guises in his lifetime, and Nothing Has Changed was a wholly enjoyable night filled with some truly powerful and spellbinding moments.
David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed was performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and guests at the Hamer Hall from the 15th to the 17th of October. Visit the website here. It waspresented by Melbourne Festival along with the MSO
The reviewer attended the performance on the 17th October.
Feature Image by Robert Catto.