Boston Rock Opera
Stardust to Blackstar: The Lives of David Bowie
Once, Cambridge, MA
August 6, 2016
Great to see and hear BRO shake off their sleepy head and hit the stage again. Stardust to Blackstar was a sizzling way to come home. The shiny silver suit was a perfect fit for Mick Mondo. He and the band ripped through the glamorous, love the alien flash and trash story of everybodys favorite starman. Once was sold out and the room was swirling.
With that much talent involved and Ziggy as the framework BRO couldnt miss. The challenges presented by Blackstar are a different story. Bowies art rock eulogy is introspective, melancholic, nuanced, verbose, and musically complex. It is definitely not a go-to Saturday night party record.
So much for that theory.
Either/Orchestras Russ Gershon and crew brought a brilliantly arranged version of Blackstar to the Once stage. He brought the fractured drums n bass element forward, and live, it created a propulsion that moved head, heart and ass. In addition to Bowie, the choir is one of Blackstars two keys.
C. Moon Mullins, Ron Murphy, Erica Mantone, Jenna Markard, and Susan Barnaby brought shifting parts to life. They whispered, they emphasized the changes, they added the tension and release. Unison and harmony were tight, drifting or hard. Beautiful.
The cherry picked guest vocalist fell deep into the songs. Ron Murphy stepped out of the choir and brought the depth of voice to pull off Blackstar and the wheezing, lilting Lazarus. Gene Dante added the groovy Bowie swagger to Tis a pity She Was a Whore. Tyra Penn kept Sues waking dream narrative dark in contrast with the propulsive beat. Peter Moore brought the method to Girl Loves Me. Where the fuck did Monday go indeed. Linda Viens had the clear sad undertone to Dollar Days. After a night of superb, in the pocket guitar, Albino Mbies sweet tenor was perfect for the wistful I Cant Give Everything Away. Russ took the vocals for a couple of welcome add ons in What In the World and the always steamy Stay.
The band was fantastic. Gershon said something that implied they had been working together on Blackstar for a little over a month.
On Drums - Jacques Smith Jr
The horns are the second key element that defines the tonality of Blackstar. Gershon and Melanie Howell Brooks were everywhere. Pretty one minute, running apart and together, hot solos, big baritone, light flute and free blowing that took it all downtown.