22 September 2014

Holy Holy recreate The Man Who Sold The World joyfully at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

Bowie started his career with a succession of ground-breaking and totally different albums, including a pretty convincing heavy-metal inspired album The Man Who Sold The World in 1970. This was the year that Deep Purple gave us Deep Purple in Rock and Black Sabbath issued both their eponymous first album and Paranoid. Happy days.

Because of the heavier tone The Man Who Sold The World does not have the same general recognition as the mellow albums that came before and after it, Space Oddity (1969) and Hunky Dory (1971). I loved it though and have listened to it consistently over the years. I've bought it at least three times.

I am probably never going to see Bowie play live again but seeing some of the original performers do The Man Who Sold The World was a no-brainer. The two originals were bassist and producer Tony Visconti and drummer Woody Woodmansey. I still remember Charles Shar Murray writing that Visconti had cranked his bass up loud on the album and that was alright because it was a heavy metal album. I agree.

The logistics were bit of a pain as I had to work in Reading that day but I managed to get around that by wearing clothes to work that while they fell far short of our formal dress-code were both smart enough for the office and rough enough for the gig. I was not going to go there wearing a suit!

The other part of the logistics, the travel, worked well as the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire is a short-hop from Paddington which is where the train from Reading dumped me. In fact that worked so well that I got there much earlier than I expected, around 6:30, and rather than head for the pub I joined the queue. My original plan was to sneak in around 8pm but I reasoned that I might as well stand and have a beer in the venue as do so in the pub.

The queueing worked even better than expected as some of the other early birds headed for one of the other preferred locations, or the bar, and the front of the arena was not that busy. I managed to buy a beer and still bag a position fairly central in the second row, i.e. there were just the people against the barrier in front of me. I chose my space well and had a young lad and his short mum in front of me so I had a very good view, as shown by these photos.

Being early also meant that I had to endure the support bands but they proved to be OK, if not very distinctive. Tony Visconti's son, Morgan Visconti, was allowed an extensive run-out for which he was joined by another offspring, Jessica Lee Morgan. No I don't understand how they got their names.

The pending arrival of Holy Holy was signalled by some Beethoven music in the style of A Clockwork Orange and then we were off.

The other main players in Holy Holy were Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) on vocals and Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet) on guitar and saxophone. There were others, lots of others, and the guest musicians were a major feature of the show.

I had only discovered a couple of days previously that these guests included Marc Almond. That was a special treat for me as I bought almost all of his albums between 1981 and 1989 when he recorded with/as Soft Cell and Marc & the Mambas as well as solo.

I expected Marc to do the title track, as Lulu had done, but he came out for After All, the quiet ballad that closed side one of the original LP.

By then I was singing along loudly to everything, as was everybody else. Music this good is infectious.

The Man Who Sold The World as received rapturously, despite its less well-known content.

Then we got a selection of more Bowie songs from around that era, though there were a surprising number from Aladdin Sane (1973). Marc Almond came back to do Watch That Man and there was a stonking version of fan-favourite Time.

Musicians came and went, but mostly came. I counted twenty people on stage at the end. The most prominent of these was Gary Kemp (also Spandau Ballet) who added his guitar to the three or four that were already playing.

The crowd were lapping it all up and the band seemed to be having as much fun as we were. There was a fair amount of interaction between us too with the audience joining in when asked (not that we needed much asking) and there was a loud cheer of shared joy and memory when Steve Norman talked about that Top of The Pops appearance on 6 July 1972. It changed many people's lives, including mine.

It was possibly the happiest concert that I have ever been too and even the eager photographers in the pit could not dampen my joy. This was an absolutely brilliant concert with excellent musicians delivering great songs that they had rehearsed with care and love.

The mood from the convert was so positive and uplifting that I hope that Holy Holy continue in some way.

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