LIVE: THE MIND WARP PAVILION – A CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVID BOWIE
Gate One Theatre, Claremont Showgrounds, Perth, Western Australia
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Richard Watson
Paying tribute to the stellar career of David Bowie was never going to be a one dimensional task, so the Mind Warp Pavilion organisers threw a multi-media mega-party on the eve of what would have been his Seventieth birthday, and what a night it was.
Music was Bowie’s main focus and what brought him the most fame, so it’s only right that music was the focus of this extraordinary concert event. Forty musicians took to the stage over three sets of songs from Bowie’s career – nineteen singers covering twenty songs that spanned decades of artistic achievement.
Local journalist and music industry personality Bob Gordon hosted the night whilst mural artist Rahalie McGuirk created a Bowie painting in front of our eyes, her brushstrokes strangely hypnotic even whilst the bands raged on stage. A DJ span Bowie cuts between the breaks, and Bowie’s image – morphing through the years, just like he did artistically – was projected onto the outside of the building like a beacon guiding us in to pay respects.
Musical director Greg Dear assembled a stunning and eclectic array of local artists to perform Bowie’s songs – so much so that the night became as much as celebration of the rich and vibrant depth of local talent we are graced with, as of Bowie’s life and work.
Band One saluted the Ziggy era and the inestimable contributions of guitarist Mick Ronson, featuring the Tommyhawks’ irrepressible Jess June on the drums, local legend Phil Bradley (Polite Society) and pocket rocket Cissi Tsang of The Potato Stars on Ronson-esque guitars, and Sarah Norton (Petticoat Junkyard) on bass.
Diamond Dogs was a fitting opener, Petulant Clark getting the throng singing and dancing along from the very start. Rock legend Wayne Green kicked out the jams with Queen Bitch, before Denise DeMarchi electrified Hang Onto Yourself. Jake England of The Caballeros performed double duties with a raucous Suffragette City and covered for an absent Addison Axe by taking on Ziggy Stardust with Rockstar abandon. Hideous Sun Demon’s Vincent Buchanan’s androgynous Rebel Rebel was Bowie-tastic, while James Rogers served up an awesome Jean Genie, bolstered by his Dad Michael’s wailing harmonica.
Crucially, each singer respected Bowie’s fierce individualism by putting their own voice on his classic works – this was a celebration of his work, after all, and not a recreation.
Furchick performed an experimental noise piece in the break, involving looped and layered samples of Bowie’s voice and music. There’s little doubt that the man himself would have wholeheartedly approved of the left of centre diversion.
Band Two was all about cover versions and obscurities, more acoustic guitar, more introspective than the harder edged first set. Greg Hitchcock of Datura4 joined Greg Dear on guitar, with Jebediah’s Vanessa Thornton on bass, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets’ Danny Caddy on drums, Mark Ralph on keyboards and John Bannister and Thea Woodward on trumpet and sax respectively.
Nick Turner sang a folky Amsterdam, before Lewis O’Donnell turned the soulful Young Americans in a Dylanesque wail. Shaun Corlson delivered an excellent Bewlay Brothers – the track which leant this event its title, while Rachel Dease imbued Wild Is The Wind with sensual beauty. Maurice Flavel crooned an enigmatic Sorrow, leaving Lee Sappho to start Rock n’ Roll Suicide in subdued fashion, before the band ramp it up with some much-needed wellie. Laith Tierney’s Word On A Wing even has a touch of Tony Hadley’s Spandau Ballet about it.
The second set ends with a jaw-dropping performance of Heroes by former Autopilot main man Steve Parkin, with Errol Tout – who actually studied under guitar master Robert Fripp in the ‘80s – contributing Fripp-esque stunt guitar. Not to detract from any other performance tonight, but Heroes was scintillating and spine tinglingly perfect and sat where it needed to be at the end of the second set, as there was no way anyone could have followed it.
Band Three save the big pop hits for last, Malcom Clark of Sleepy Jackson occupying the drum stool with Kenji Kitahara and Jack Gaby on guitars, Cliff Kent on bass, Lana and Em Burrows on keyboards, and Dan Hart playing saxophone.
They open with Space Oddity, performed with expert beauty by Natasha Shanks, before Tanaya Harper takes on Golden Years as if she was born to sing it. Despite MC Bob Gordon’s protestations that Fashion is ‘just a talking song,’ he nails it, with extra Zoolander credit, referencing Bowie’s own appearance in that film.
It’s hard not to overdo the hyperbole when a concert is simply this good, and Adrian Hoffman’s Starman was another stunning episode to an already-incredible night. Joe Kapiteyn may be more well known for his heavy bands, but he shows his tender side on Where Are We Now, moving listeners with his sensitive rendition of this latterday Bowie number.
It’s hard to listen to The Man Who Sold The World without hearing Kurt Cobain’s take on the song, and Pat McLaughlin’s version of the song referenced both Bowie’s original and Nirvana’s update. Timothy Nelson’s Let’s Dance is a celebration, pure and simple. In many ways it’s the culmination of the night – the apotheosis of the party. He drags most of the female performers from tonight’s huge line-up onstage to dance and prance, a sax honks a genius solo, and the hundreds of fans in the room dance and sing in celebration accordingly.
Lazarus is the final song of the night and Dez Richardson tackles the haunting and sombre track respectfully. It was, of course, the requiem Bowie wrote for himself – a fitting epitaph for his storied life, and for this wonderful, celebratory, beautiful night. Full of emotional gravitas and with a mournful sax calling out to Bowie’s talent, gone from us too soon, Lazarus brought some of the crowd to tears.
To cap off an excellent night Bob Gordon ushered the amassed performers onstage just a few minutes before midnight, to lead the room in a resounding chorus of Happy Birthday, in memory of Bowie on what would have been his Seventieth birthday.
The Mind Warp Pavilion succeeded on every level – it celebrated the incredible career of David Bowie, showcased so much stunning local talent, gave hundreds of people a great night out, and raised money to find a cure for cancer. With the performances uniformly brilliant, we can only hope the organisers filmed or recorded the night.
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE