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Two recent concerts pay homage to the late David Bowie

Cary Ashby • Updated Mar 13, 2018 at 5:59 PM

CLEVELAND — In less than a month, this lifelong Bowiehead had the chance to see two David Bowie tribute concerts. And they couldn’t have been any more different, but that’s a good thing.

On Friday, I went with two good friends, Rob and Nancy Smith, to take in the Diamond Dogs concert at the House of Blues in Cleveland. The Cleveland-based, four-piece Diamond Dogs band is fronted by singer Rich Kline and the group has been performing since 2003.

Kline, a self-declared Bowie impersonator, did three wardrobe changes during the roughly 90-minute show that mostly featured hits. He wore a red, mullet-style wig and two costumes in the set that focused on Ziggy Stardust, the alien persona that the late Bowie created and embodied on stage and even in interviews. The band performed such well-known songs as “Suffragette City,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Space Oddity,” “The Jean Genie,” “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel” and even “All the Young Dudes,” which Bowie wrote for Mott the Hoople.

For the opening of the show, Kline wore a blue suit and striped tie similar to what Bowie wore in his “Life on Mars?” video. Aside from the ill-placed microphone pack on his hip, the outfit fit Kline fairly well, but the same couldn’t be said for his second costume, the glittery jump suit with shoulder pads — all akin to what the thin Bowie wore onstage as Ziggy. Despite the colorful feather boa that dangled nearly to Kline’s knees, the suit failed to hide his girth.

The singer wore Ziggy-esque tall, bright red boots. The thick, nearly three-inch heels made Kline — who is easily well over 6 feet tall — that much taller. I assume he wore the boots under the blue suit also.

While the second outfit did nothing flattering for him, Kline’s strong baritone was more than up to the task of handling Bowie’s often tricky repertoire.  

To end the Ziggy set, the band blasted into “Hang Onto Yourself,” the tune that Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars used to open their 1972-’73 concerts.

For the final portion, the Diamond Dogs quartet started with “Look Back in Anger,” the opener for Bowie’s 1983 world tour for “Let’s Dance.” The final part of the show included “Fame,” “Fashion,” “Ashes to Ashes” (a sequel to the Major Tom’s saga in “Space Oddity”), “China Girl,” “I’m Afraid of Americans” and “Under Pressure.” The encore was “Let’s Dance.”

Kline, to close the show, opted for the Union Jack-based jacket that Bowie wore for his 1997 “Earthling” album cover and often during the subsequent world tour. Needless to say, the singer looked much more comfortable.

Another close friend, Chris Castle, and I attended the Feb. 19 concert in Royal Oak, Mich. known as “Celebrating David Bowie,” a tour which has featured musicians who toured and recorded with the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame musician.

As spot on as the Diamond Dogs band was with Bowie’s songs, nothing could compare with hearing instrumentalists who knew the Thin White Duke to best recreate his songs. Fittingly, three vocalists with powerful voices took the stage to handle a wide variety of musical genres — hard rock, cabaret, funk, pop, rock and ballads.

Led by virtuoso jazz pianist Mike Garson, the “Celebrating” band was incredibly tight.

Earl Slick, the featured lead guitarist, was reunited with bassist Carmine Rojas. Also on the bill were guitarists Gerry Leonard, the musical director of DB’s last tour in 2003-’04, and Mark Plati, a producer who also performed on four albums and the 1999 “VH-1 Storytellers” gig. The band was an intergenerational affair, being backed by Slick’s son on drums — the only instrumentalist with no Bowie affiliation.

The Feb. 19 concert featured half of each of the “Aladdin Sane” and “Station to Station” albums, which Garson and Slick respectively recorded with Bowie. The set list included two deep tracks that DB and his various bands never performed live, “Lady Grinning Soul” and “Win.”

For a complete review, go to caryscomicscraze.blogspot.com/2018/02/celebrating-david-bowie-concert.html. A series of Bowie tributes also can be found on the Cary’s Comics Craze blog at caryscomicscraze.blogspot.com/search/label/David%20Bowie.

Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby is a lifelong David Bowie fan who saw him six times in concert. Follow him on Twitter at @Cary_reporter and on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger.”

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