The Bowie-inspired supergroup Holy Holy, featuring original Spider from Mars Woody Woodmansey and David Bowie collaborator and legendary producer Tony Visconti, first got together in 2014 when they toured Bowie’s groundbreaking The Man Who Sold The World album in full, which both men played on. This was followed with a 2017 tour playing The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars in full. Now, in 2019, Holy Holy are back with another tour performing not one, but both of these legendary albums in full, back-to-back. Bexhill’s De La Warr is absolutely packed out for an evening of Bowie worship. Fronted by Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, Woodmansey and Visconti are joined by James Stevenson and Paul Cuddeford on guitar, Berenice Scott on keyboards and Jessica Lee Morgan on saxophone, guitar and additional vocals.
Beginning with The Man Who Sold The World set, the heaviest of Bowie’s early 70s albums, the band don’t hold back on songs like the doom-laden All The Madmen and The Supermen as well as the lighter but no less brooding ‘After All’, not to mention a majestic rendition of the album’s title track. As I observed on a previous tour, Gregory is a powerful singer and great performer who does a nice line in Bowiesque vocals but without ever descending into play-acting or parody. Although the venue is all-seated tonight, many in the crowd don’t need much encouragement at all from Gregory when he says they are welcome to make their way to the front (even if the venue management appear to take a slightly different view).
If the atmosphere for the moody, dark proto-goth vibes of The Man Who Sold The World is reverential when the band switch to performing Ziggy Stardust, however, it’s one of unadulterated, joyous celebration. This is exactly as it should be for one of the truly classic albums of the second-half of the twentieth century. From ‘Five Years’ (track 1 side one on the original vinyl) through to ‘Rock n Roll Suicide’ (track 6, side 2) the classic songs keep rolling one after another, each one greeted with tumultuous, affectionate, thunderous applause.
Yes, those on stage didn’t write these songs and (in the majority of cases) weren’t the ones to originally perform them. Their creator, together with two of his three Spiders From Mars band-mates, is no longer with us. And yet, and yet… this is very much a band, not a disparate collection of musicians and competing egos coming together to reel off a tribute, but a band – one that has genuinely gelled musically, one that works the stage together and one that laps up the love shown by tonight’s audience. Everything about this performance screams out that this is something special, that this is something way beyond the myriad of Bowie tributes that can be found up and down the country.
The encore sees a surprise rendition of Bowie’s 2013 hit ‘Where Are We Now’, something the band only hit on part way through the current tour, Gregory tells us. That’s followed by a triumphant ‘Life On Mars’, a superbly energetic’Changes’ and a gloriously raucous ‘Rebel Rebel’.
Bowie’s music needs to be kept alive and deserves to be kept alive and, really, no-one does that better than Holy Holy.
Width of a Circle
All The Madmen
Black Country Rock
Running Gun Blues
She Shook Me Cold
The Man Who Sold The World
It Ain’t Easy
Hang On to Yourself
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Where Are We Now
Life On Mars
When Darren met Woody…
Holy Holy at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2017