Mike Garson Plays Aladdin Sane at 02 Academy, Liverpool - live review

Pianist on Bowie classic plays it again

Crowd shot

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Two years after David Bowie’s death, the mass musical celebration of his legacy shows no sign of fading. The latest in a parade of long-time Bowie sideman to tour with the focus on a single classic album is piano maestro Mike Garson, who has assembled a pan-generational collective and various starry guests to play Aladdin Sane.

Orchestrating proceedings from his grand piano perch, the shiny-domed Garson has the louche air of a Bond villain on his day off. His florid avant-jazz style can feel excessive, especially when he inserts Beatles and Gershwin melodies into a marathon expanded reworking of Aladdin Sane itself, but such baroque maximalism suits the album’s undertow of velvet-lined glam-cabaret decadence, amping up the high-camp melodrama of Time and the sublime perfumed sexiness of Lady Grinning Soul. (Swoon.) Jazz singer Gaby Moreno’s warm, feminised slant on these androgynous anthems shows how effortlessly Bowie blurred gender lines. It is also great to witness huge 80s hits like Let’s Dance and Absolute Beginners electrify a mid-sized venue, triggering lusty mass singalongs.

The sole jarring note in this big-hearted celebration of Bowie’s genius is guest vocalist Steve Harley, who turns the supple folds of Changes into a graceless trundle before self-indulgently deflating the party mood with his own 1973 ballad Sebastian.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.