Review: 4**** The Bowie Experience: The Golden Years Tour Hackney Empire @HackneyEmpire @bowieexperience

Tweetingit: 4* A true icon and his live show re-imagined; A hugely entertaining take on a greatest hits package. I defy anyone not to enjoy this show!

June 1983: post-punk, pre Band Aid and belted safari jackets were inexplicably in fashion. But more importantly, it marked the only occasion I saw David Bowie play live. The Serious Moonlight tour showcased the critically panned but commercially successful Let’s dance album. I happily ticked off the classics and revelled in the presence of a true icon.bowie-loti-768x480

Thirty five years have passed since that memorable summer evening, and the Brixton boy is sadly no longer with us. Watching a tribute act is a challenge for the senses; you might disappear down the rabbit hole of YouTube for clips and draw a comparison. But having seen the real thing, one sets the bar unreasonably high. Going to the Hackney Empire further extends the nostalgia vibe; I was born and raised a stone’s throw away from the Empire, a once legendary music hall venue. But it has since relaunched as a theatre and is thriving with a variety of shows on offer. As the song goes ain’t nothing like the real thing; but overall, the Bowie Experience does a damn good job.

However, I was surprised that only one performer, Lawrence Knight would be taking on the role; David Bowie in 1969 was very different from the version we had in 1973, 1976 and 1983. He was the first pop star to reinvent himself. Just how would that pan out on stage? With some carefully timed costume changes and extended instrumental breaks he pulled it off with comparative ease. Whilst Lawrence generally captured Bowie’s vocal intonation, it would inevitably be hit and miss. For example, he nailed Space oddity and Starman; but sounded sharp on Changes and Sorrow. However, he was quickly back on track with an excellent reading of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The first half concluded with a rousing version of Suffragette City and Rebel rebel.

The second half opened with a suited and booted Bowie performing Diamond dogs from 1974; he rapidly moved onto Young Americans (always a favourite of mine), but was let down by some weak backing vocals. Golden years cleverly segued into Sound and vision. the-bowie-experience-lst198100But Lawrence’s intonation once again wandered on Hallo spaceboy, when he sounded more like Gary Numan. But happily he recovered for Ashes to ashes and the typically barnstorming FashionLet’s dance easily drew the strongest reaction of the night and got everyone on their feet. A solidly presented set finished with Fame and Heroes.

The Bowie Experience will never totally satisfy purists like me, but make no mistake this is a supremely entertaining show. Bowie has a huge back catalogue, and selecting 30 songs that properly represent a five decade recording career is no easy task. But they managed to include every major hit Bowie had including Under pressure. The seven piece backing band was superb, giving every song added punch but Laurence Knight is undoubtedly an accomplished frontman. Interpreting the work of a great artist takes guts because of the comparison one attracts. It just serves to remind us what a great talent we’ve lost, but we have Laurence Knight to keep the live experience going.

Producer: CJI Concerts

Booking Link:

Booking Until: Touring nationally until 30 November 2019

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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