In the Music Spotlight: Holy Holy
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Tribute concerts to David Bowie’s life and career were held late last month at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall in the artist’s adopted hometown of New York City.
Disappointed fans of the late artist who couldn’t travel have cause to rejoice, because a unique component of that tribute will be visiting Chicago. Holy Holy, the house band for The Music of David Bowie shows, will perform at House of Blues on April 10. The group features drummer Mick “Woody” Woodmansey of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust-era band The Spiders from Mars. Holy Holy’s bassist and co-leader is longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, whose production credits with Bowie range from 1969’s “Space Oddity” album to this year’s gripping farewell statement “Blackstar.”
The supergroup will perform all of Bowie’s 1970 album “The Man Who Sold the World,” for which Visconti and Woodmansey comprised the original rhythm section.
“One premise of the group is that we are the original musicians, not just a tribute band,” says Visconti. “During the second part of the show, we do favorites like ‘Starman,’ ‘Life on Mars? ,’ and ‘Five Years,’ which Woody played on.”
Throughout the show, Visconti and Woodmansey are reminded of time spent with Bowie while developing songs that are now considered classics. Visconti cites “After All” as a song that sends him back to the moment of its creation.
“We all lived together in the same apartment south of London,” he says. “David wrote it in front of us, and we worked out our parts on acoustic guitars. But when we finally finished it in the studio, all our parts were made up on the spot. It turned out to be almost like a very soft symphony. It was so beautiful. Also, there was the sentiment of ‘After All,’ which was about explaining to older people why we behave this way as younger people.”
Although he’s a self-labelled “studio rat,” Visconti enjoys his role on the road as Holy Holy’s bassist. He finds plenty to sink his teeth into, including parts he originally composed. “The Width of a Circle” is a personal favorite. “It’s three songs in one,” says Visconti. “It’s a real magnum opus – one of Bowie’s finest compositions. But it’s some workout. I wish it wasn’t the first song in the set, but it is. I have to warm up backstage to get my fingers flying before I get up onto the stage.”
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.