“He’s fucking sacked us,” Spiders bass player, Trevor Bolder, was seen to mouth when David Bowie announced at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 1973 that it would be the final Ziggy show ever.
Tragically, like Bowie, Bolder and his former Spiders colleague Mick Ronson are no longer with us. However, three years ago Spiders drummer, Woody Woodmansey, teamed up with long-term Bowie collaborator, Tony Visconti, to tour The Man Who Sold The World, an album that both played on. Now their Holy Holy outfit have done the seemingly impossible and resurrected Ziggy and the Spiders, forty-odd years after Bowie declared it would be the last show they would ever do.
Would they pull it off? I was certainly keen find out. Much as I wholeheartedly agreed with all of the tributes last year about what a truly unique, talented and infuential presence Bowie was throughout his entire career, for me it was always the early 70s glam rock period of Bowie’s work that I was truly, unequivocally a 100% fan of.
Starting out with ‘The Width Of A Circle’ from The Man Who Sold The World, the seven-piece band go on to perform the Ziggy Stardust album in full, treating the crowd to blinding versions of Starman, Ziggy, Suffragette City and all the other gems from that iconic album. Once the final song of the album Rock n Roll Suicide plays out they give us to a spectacular run-through of other Bowie classics including ‘Changes’, ‘Life On Mars’ and ‘Space Oddity’.
Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory delivers superb Bowie-esque vocals with the familiar phrasing that we all know and love from the records, while at the same time avoiding descending into a “Tonight Matthew I’m going to be…” pastiche.
Post-punk icon James Stevenson absolutely nails the Ronson guitar licks in what is a talented band of world-class musicians. And, of course, it goes without saying that Woody Woodmansey is still an exceptionally talented drummer. The outpouring of affection for him throughout the night is thoroughly deserved.
The capacity crowd sing along to every word and the whole thing is joyful and celebratory. As we inevitably lose more and more of our twentieth century rock icons it becomes more and more apparent that we continue to have a tremendous yearning to still hear the music they made being performed live.
We are no more going to forget ‘Life On Mars’ in fifty years time than we have forgotten ‘A Wonderful World’ almost fifty years after the death of Louis Armstrong. The challenge is to find an appropriate way of continuing to celebrate such music in a live setting. Holy Holy perhaps provides the template.
They don’t claim to be the original band, although they’ve got a living, breathing direct link to it in the form of Woodmansey. They are not a tribute act, in that they avoid the role-playing and dressing up which can risk turning contemporary live performances into the musical equivalents of historical re-enactment societies. They do, however, pay tribute to the music in a way that is accurate and authentic and which delivers the songs with great love, care and affection.
In short, Holy Holy shows a way forward as to how we can continue to enjoy some of the greatest music of the twentieth century well into the twenty-first. A genuinely and truly impressive gig.
Review by Darren Johnson
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 7 September 2021.
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Featured Albums w/c 6 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 HEARTLAND Into The Future (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 VEGA Anarchy And Unity (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JACKSON BROWNE Downhill From Everywhere (indie)
Power Plays w/c 20 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
BAD TOUCH Twenty Five Miles (Marshall)
THE HUMAN VEIL Enemies (indie)
DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY Now’s The Time (Golden Robot Records)
VANSLEEP Oceans (indie)
TRUE NORTH Save Me (Out Of Line Music)
SORROW & THE SPIRE In The City Tonight (Golden Robot Records)
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