Friday, January 15, 2016

Holy Holy (Woody Woodmansey, Tony Visconti, and guests) - Jessica Lee Morgan -- Birchmere - Jan 14 2016

photos courtesy of Davis White

Jessica Lee Morgan -  Opening the show is a singer on acoustic guitar and vocals with a bass player. But this is a special night, so it is not just any singer, but the daughter of Mary Hopkin and Tony Visconti. Ms. Morgan has a fine voice, a bit tougher than her mother's, whose work I quite enjoyed. The early material in the set has a folk to folk-rock appeal, with just a twang of country roots at brief intervals. She plays a decent guitar and can really rock it out acoustically when the fire builds throughout the set, and her voice can also bring it up a couple of notches to match. The bass playing is sharp and on point and Ms. Morgan adds some jingle and percussion with special attachments to her feet, which fortunately I can spot from my first row vantage point. She adds a fine cover of the song 'Under Pressure' that David Bowie wrote with Queen, two of her favorites. The crowd enjoyed this and all of her set for that matter as this was a great beginning to a very special night for all of us both on my side of the stage and for those on it.

Holy Holy - Although this was a show I was looking forward to anyway, this past Monday's news of David Bowie's passing pushed this night at the Birchmere into a spiritual odyssey of sorts. But as Woody Woodmansey and Tony Visconti pointed out before the show, although their tour has shifted into nearly unfathomable territory, the show goes on and everyone should just join in and have a great time tonight. My feelings are perplexing and jumbled throughout the night, but the easy part of this review is the music. It was brilliant.
The lineup featured the original rhythm section (and producer) of 'The Man Who Sold the World' so they played that album in its entirety to start the show. I saw a discussion (one of oh so many this week) of how this album may have been Bowie's heaviest. If I had any doubts, this band proved the point with a ferocious sound that rippled through all my fibers. Woodmansey is still a powerhouse that can anchor any strong rocking band. Visconti is a sharp player whose lines are an attempt at emulating Jack Bruce, as Mick Ronson desired back when this was recorded. On guitars tonight we have James Stevenson, which is a real treat for me as he was the original guitarist in Chelsea whose early singles were an essential part of my punk rock record collection. He offers a real sonic flair and style to the music. Paul Cuddeford, a genius studio guitarist/composer, has a ferocious gutsy attack as he plays with precious few pedals through his Blackstar amp. The tough and the attractive team up in double leads, alternate leads and bring so much life to Mick Ronson's creative ideas. Berenice Scott handles keyboards with a fine touch, and Terry Edwards plays 12-string acoustic and adds tasty saxophone as needed. Jessica Lee Morgan is here for backup vocals and also one lead. The unenviable task of lead vocals goes to former Heaven 17 singer, Glenn Gregory. He has a great voice and keeps it clean and precise, handling the nuances well. I did not see Bowie but heard his vision in the singing and certainly felt the power of Bowie's songs with this fantastic band.
They did not stop with just this album as they filled out their long set with many other Bowie songs from the Spider from Mars era such as 'Sufragette City', 'Time', 'Changes', 'Life on Mars', 'Rock'n'Roll Suicide', Five Years, and many more. 'Moonage Daydream' is perhaps my favorite from that era and while I am not sure I went into an out of body experience, I am not sure exactly where I was during this. Some songs brought out wonderful rock music feelings while others had me pondering the underlying sadness of the occasion. But Tony and Woody were right, this was a night to let it loose, join them in having fun celebrating this brilliant one of a kind music. Absolutely stunning.
Quotes of the Night: A few minutes before the show, Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey came out to talk about the difficult decision they had to make earlier this week to continue with the Toronto shows, the Birchmere show, and the rest of the tour...

Tony Visconti - 'Monday was the worst day of my life, for many of us... we are musicians, we can not sit and not play music. And music heals a lot of pain.

Woody Woodmansey - 'So the rule is anything goes. It helps to play it.'

AND, as a bonus, DC ROCK LIVE writer Kyle Schmitt also attended and has this to report:'

Holy Holy
Birchmere / January 14, 2016
By Kyle Schmitt

This David Bowie tribute served as a celebration just three nights after bassist Tony Visconti endured what he called possibly “the worst day of my life.” But as the long-time Bowie producer argued on-stage before the show, with Spiders from Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey standing by his side, what else were they to do as musicians but to keep playing? The two formed half the ensemble that produced 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World (Visconti said that he and Woodmansey roomed together during its recording), which Holy Holy played in its entirety. And they set a defiant tone early, with Woodmansey telling the audience that rules didn’t apply on this night. The reunited bandmates showed impressive chemistry on the should-be classic “Black Country Rock” and the epic “The Width of a Circle”, which provided a showcase for guitar talents James Stevenson and Paul Cuddeford. Singer Glenn Gregory strutted capably through the material, keeping a positive face on what could have been a maudlin experience even when delivering the homicidal fantasy “Running Gun Blues”. His charisma shone brightest on the lusty rocker “She Shook Me Cold” and the piano-driven “Time”.  Gregory was spelled halfway through the set by Jessica Lee Morgan, who performed a gorgeous rendition of “Lady Stardust”. 

Much of the fun came from watching Woodmansey perform his drum parts on songs that influenced a generation. His stickwork propelled “Changes” and “Ziggy Stardust”, and a mid-set drum solo elicited a standing ovation, to which Woodmansey responded by throwing up the sign of the horns. Holy Holy concluded its set with a joyous “Suffragette City”, which was capped off by the audience joining in to scream the “Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am!” kiss-off. That singalong was a fitting end to a night on which at least two groups of grown men embraced while gushing about the show they’d just seen. Though the Blackstar could not be seen, his light will never fade from view.

No comments: