Tony Visconti & Woody Woodmansey with Glenn Gregory review – Bowie revisited

ABC, Glasgow

The most over-qualified Bowie tribute band play the whole of The Man Who Sold the World

His makeup-daubed eye from the iconic cover for Aladdin Sane stares intensely from Woody Woodmansey’s kick drumhead. The rest is merely aura and association. “None of us would be here tonight if it wasn’t for David Bowie,” acknowledges Tony Visconti. “The reason why he isn’t here is he didn’t want to be.”

If the Thin White Duke can’t be coaxed into playing live again by even Woodmansey and Visconti – the former a Spider from Mars, the latter Bowie’s sometime bassist and producer of many of his classic albums, from 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World through to 2013’s The Next Day – then perhaps the world’s most over-qualified Bowie tribute band are as close as we’ll get to the real thing ever again.

His late guitarist and sideman Mick Ronson’s daughter Lisa Ronson and niece Hannah Berridge Ronson both sing backup. Singing lead is former Heaven 17 frontman Glenn Gregory – surely nobody’s idea of the next best thing to Bowie, but a very capable conduit.

Played in full, the hard-rocking The Man Who Sold the World is the effective raison d’etre for this tour. It’s hardly Bowie’s best album (its most famous song and title track is commonly mistaken to be by Nirvana, owing to a cover on their MTV Unplugged album). But it’s an apt rallying point, both because of its formative significance for Bowie and because legend has it Woodmansey and Visconti were as involved in the album’s authorship as its cover star was. Their lap of honour on the proto-glam likes of The Width of a Circle and Running Gun Blues is long overdue.

But the fun really begins in the Bowie-oke second half, as his full early-70s oeuvre is plundered at random. Lisa Ronson and Gregory ham it up amusingly, duetting on Watch That Man. After fully four misstarts by pianist Berenice Scott are awkwardly laughed off, Life on Mars? lifts off towards the cosmos. Ziggy Stardust, Changes, Time and a wham-bamming Suffragette City feature in a celebratory final flourish worthy of a respectful wink from Bowie’s all-seeing eye.

• At Colchester arts centre, 28 June; O2 Academy, Birmingham, 29 June; O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, 30 June.


Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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