David Bowie was an artist whose music deeply resonated with fans across the globe for five decades. So it’s no surprise that it continues to do so, little more than two years after his passing.
The longest tenured Bowie musician and collaborator, keyboardist Mike Garson, has become the de-facto bandleader of Celebrating David Bowie — an internationally touring Bowie Tribute primarily comprised of Bowie band alums.
Garson’s fourth iteration of Celebrating David Bowie, which hits the Balboa Theatre on Tuesday night, also will feature Let’s Dance/Serious Moonlight touring bassist Carmine Rojas, longtime album/touring guitarist Earl Slick, former Bowie bandleader Gerry Leonard, and former Bowie music director Mark Plati.
For vocals, it’s decades-long Rolling Stones singer Bernard Fowler, Sting’s son Joe Sumner, 2017 Grammy nominee Gabby Moreno, and a rotating cast of special guests.
Seal, Gavin Rossdale, La Roux, Sting, Ewan McGregor, and recent Best Actor Oscar-winner Gary Oldman all have been featured Celebrating David Bowie vocalists in the past.
And on this tour, singer/actress Evan Rachel Wood, Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, and Living Colour’s Corey Glover will all appear on select dates.
PACIFC recently spoke with Garson about his pioneering friend and collaborator, this new run of shows, and what it’s like to help keep the music alive.
PACIFIC: People embracing these shows the way they have really speaks to David’s incredible legacy.
MIKE GARSON: It’s shocking. Every night, you look out there and you see tears, you see laughter. You hear every word being sung. It’s the most amazing thing.
Is it strange to go from playing with him to leading a tribute band?
What separates us from a regular tribute band is that we’re the alumni guys. It’s a beautiful thing. The band is really solid and sounds as good as when we played for David. And there are plenty of other alumni out there that we plan on bringing up. We’re going to keep it going. I see myself doing it with symphony orchestras. I see doing different albums with great singers like Robert Smith, Joe Elliott and Simon LeBon — guys who were really influenced by him.
A Bowie celebration is something that I feel committed to. I didn’t know all this would happen. I was originally hired to do eight weeks. I ended up doing a thousand concerts and 20 albums with David.
Bizarre that it unfolded that way. But the gratification for me is having the music played and sung so well. And the bonus is when I hear the audience singing these songs. It’s like a catharsis. This is the David Bowie songbook. People want to hear this. It’s like George Gershwin, Burt Bacharach or Cole Porter. But it’s Bowie. And I’m committed to it.
You’re getting to really see it now, but were you aware of just how significant Bowie’s impact was while you were playing with him?
You know, when I first joined in ’72 with the Spiders from Mars, I only played half the songs. So I’d slip out into the audience when I wasn’t playing and watch this guy from the first row. And I knew right then and there he was a genius and a renaissance man.
But when it was all said and done, I think I took it all a little for granted. And now, I’m really appreciating it. The songs are unbelievable and it’s such a pleasure to play them.
And it’s one thing for fans to embrace his music, but another when so many artists do as well.
Exactly. I’ve played for so many artists and there hasn’t been one that wasn’t influenced by David — Smashing Pumpkins, Trent Reznor, Gwen Stefani and the list goes on and on. Holy mackerel. We knew he was great, but now we’re really realizing just how great he, and his body of work, was. And then you think about his acting, painting, sculpture, fashion, and producing alongside his songwriting and performing ability? He might be the greatest artist of the 20th century.
Celebrating David Bowie
When: 7:30 p.m. March 6
Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., downtown