It’s not too often I’m lucky enough to be in New York. This current trip is in fact only my second time here in 45 years. I can rest assured it won’t be my last. It’s not too often I’m lucky enough to be in New York to align my planets with those of some of David Bowie’s long time genius collaborators playing a gig in New York that I’m lucky enough to get some tickets to… tickets which turn out to be one of the hottest events in town so far in 2015. (ok, ok, it’s still only January 3rd but read on!).
Billed as “The TV Show”, Bowie’s legendary producer, sometime bass player and all-round great guy Tony Visconti assembled a whizz band and some cracking singers to fill the downtown City Winery to the rafters on a very wet Manhattan evening to play a collection of classic songs that, in his words, he’s either “produced, played bass on or somehow been involved in” – a back catalogue of over 1,900 songs ranging from Morissey, Moody Blues and Wings covers to ripping T-Rex and Bowie singalongs.
I knew the evening was going to be special when the doorman mistook me for Laurie Anderson. Seriously! When he asked for my name and I replied “Cass” he checked his iPad door list and said, “oh yeah, Jim Cass and Laurie Anderson?” A bit thrown, as of course we’re Cass and Jim I said “um, yeah?”. And then we looked at each other and said “HUH?”. Sorted that one out pretty quickly. We were shown to our seats and we already knew Laurie Anderson was in the house. New York, I love you!
TV hits the stage soon after we’ve ordered some pretty delicious duck tacos and tuna carpaccio, beer and wine, and launches straight into Bowie’s A New Career in a New Town from the Low album. AWRIGHT! Next up ‘another song from my old friend David Bowie’ and it’s When You Rock N Roll With Me from Diamond Dogs. Suddenly that Italian malbec is loosening my throat for a singalong quite nicely.
The band is great, supporting shining stars Visconti and Gerry Leonard aka Spooky Ghost. I hadn’t seen Gerry performing live since 2004 and his laid back playing from his seat at the side of the stage lifted this show to another level for the whole night. And Visconti on bass is simply like the blood pumping through my veins – an essential part of my life that has been there as long as I can remember. At times I feel like I’m watching a cover band (and as my music friends know I’m NOT a fan of either cover bands or tribute bands) but then I pinch myself as I remember this is the real thing. In New York.
A great line of talented singers lead the songs, harmonise, share backing vocals and have a helluva lot of fun doing so. Richard Barone takes on the lions share of the vocals for the night (including a ripsnorting rendition of Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing from Diamond Dogs), the lovely Kiah Victoria (whom Tony introduces as someone he’s met through NYU), the vocal lioness Larkin Grimm (who nailed T-Rex’s She Was Born to Be My Unicorn) and Nakia – a dude up from Austin TX just for the night whom we’d never heard of but was absolutely famous here for being a USA singing show finalist. His version of Young Americans bought tears to my eyes as I raised my glass to honour the memory of long time Bowie fan and dear friend Jim ‘Marlboro’ Shannon from Philly who lost his battle with cancer only 6 weeks ago. Jim was in the Sigma Studios for some of the YA recording sessions and he has never felt closer to me than during this song tonight.
Special guest Suzanne Vega joined onstage for The Man Who Sold the World, reminiscent in her high shouldered black suit of the Klaus Nomi SNL Bowie performances and Lulu’s version of the song. She joined everyone onstage again at the end for a rocking version of T Rex’s Bang a Gong which has us all on our feet clapping and rollicking.
And so the show was over. What a week it’s been for us for live performances, what with this following on from Patti Smith’s 68th Birthday gig last week (supported by an unannounced but greatly appreciated Michael Stipe performing with Patti’s daughter Jesse on keyboards) and seeing Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway with the brilliant Tits of Clay band.
As the room cleared out I waited a while for the loo Q to dissapate. Whilst still sitting at our table Larkin Grimm walked through. I grabbed her attention and thanked her for a wonderful performance. She said “oh YOU’RE the ones from Australia??! Tony told us there were some people here all the way from Australia tonight!!”. Unbeknownst to James I had tweeted to Visconti I’d be there flying the flag for Bowie Downunder. Nice 🙂
I wasn’t planning on hanging around as there was a paid meet n greet so I got up to head to the bathroom and just happened to run into Gerry Leonard. I’m really not one to hang around and get photos, autographs and make small chit chat with famous folk but what the hell, I’m in NEW YORK with half of BOWIE’S BAND so what have I got to lose? “G’day Gerry, thanks for a great show! I’m here all the way from Australia. I last saw you playing at the Ding Dong lounge all thos years ago”. He remembered the Ding Dong. We chatted a few minutes and I bit the bullet and asked for a photo. Lovely guy that Gerry 🙂
I finally make it down to the ladies. And run SMACK into Laurie Anderson. FREAK OUT. So many emotions, so many thoughts. And I’m in the fucking TOILETS. So I just walk past and let her go. She’s tiny, petite. She’s legendary. She’s the idol of my heroes. She was Lou Reed’s absolutely beloved wife. And she’s here and now she’s gone. As I rush out the door a few minutes later about to practically yell at James “Laurie Anderson was in the loos”, she’s at the bottom of the stairs still, standing near James. I don’t believe my luck. I walk up and introduce myself, shake her hand. She smiles, she turns to face me. She’s gracious and sweet. I want to say something about how much I miss Lou but it seems so corny. I think she misses him more. I let it go. I thank her and let her go. I’m really quite star struck!
We make our way outside. We look back in and see Jesse Smith (Patti’s daughter) chatting with Larkin. Gerry mentioned Matt Duncan, bassist with Tits of Clay was there (I’d made a point of shaking hands and introducing myself/thanking him after the Hedwig performance only 5 nights ago). This is one of those New York nights you dream about. Living the dream.