Glass Spider - Under the Bridge, London, 17/12/2013

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 15 / 1 / 2014

Glass Spider - Under the Bridge, London, 17/12/2013

Anthony Dhanendran finds the reunion of the Glass Spider Band, Davie Bowie's 1987 world tour backing band, crowd-pleasing but best left in the past at a show in the strange circumstances of Under the Bridge in London


Under The Bridge is, frankly, a strange place. It’s a nightclub beneath the Stamford Bridge stadium of Chelsea FC (hence the groan-worthy name) that’s more used to hosting nouveau riche footballers and match-day hospitality packages (starting at a no-doubt thoroughly reasonable £395 plus VAT per person). The club is decked out in an almost parodic fashion, all gloss black walls, sheet glass and mirrors, as though the kind of people who would want to spend nearly £500 on football tickets would wish to do so in the kind of place in which you expect to see Del Boy at the next table, thumbing through his Filofax and ordering up another cognac-and-Ribena cocktail. But the bizarre surroundings and the 1980s throwbacks are the perfect place, then, to celebrate the reunion of the Glass Spider Band, or at least part thereof. We’re here to celebrate David Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider tour, which Bowie had conceived as being “ultra-theatrical” and a return to the stagecraft he’d practiced at the height of his powers in the mid-1970's. Today’s show has been put together by Erdal Kizilcay and Richard Cottle from the original band from that tour, along with some new additions, including a singer by the name of Simon Westbrook taking on the lead role. Obviously Bowie himself doesn’t put in an attendance, and neither, sadly, does the 60ft-high glass spider that took pride of place on stage at the time. Instead of a support act, there’s a varied programme of entertainment, including a screening of the 1986 Jim Henson film 'Labyrinth' in which Bowie took a starring role, and a question-and-answer session with the band. We’re also treated to a performance of some of Bowie’s 1960's numbers by someone called Phil Dirtbox who, the programme informs us, is a "legendary Soho character". Now, describing someone as "a character" is akin to introducing a friend as being "like, really mad" in that the reality is invariably a disappointment. In fact, Mr Dirtbox, with an undersized suit and an oversized personality, puts in a sprightly performance on some underrated songs such as ‘Love You Till Tuesday’, accompanied by Mick Ronson’s niece on the piano. It’s diverting enough – in fact it’s pretty weird – but the main act is why we’re here. Said main act can, as you might expect, properly play. There’s Simon Westbrook – dressed sharply in a rather fine dark red suit – in the Bowie role, two keyboard players, a drummer and a bass guitarist as well as two dancers and a backing singer. Everyone can play, everyone looks the part, and everyone is putting the whole works into the pretence that it’s really the late 1980s and we’re all being photographed for 'i-D' magazine. We get a sprinkling of the Glass Spider set lists, probably more hits-heavy than an actual set at the time would have been, with outings for ‘China Girl’, ‘Jean Genie’, ‘Loving the Alien’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Fashion’ and ‘Heroes’, as well as ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Girls’, a song co-written by Bowie and Erdal, but never released – instead, Simon informs us, Tina Turner took the song to number one (“number one in Japan”, Erdal confirms). It’s certainly a crowd-pleasing set, and the crowd – your reviewer included – are certainly pleased. The band don’t seem to have lost any rhythm from the days when they – Cottle and Kizilcay, at least – were doing the whole thing for real, and Westbrook pulls off Bowie better than could have been expected, refusing to do a comedic Bowie impression but instead making a more interesting hybrid of himself and the big man. But for all that, this is still essentially a tribute act, and the peculiar surroundings, probably more used to hosting tribute bands than ‘real’ ones, do nothing to make it seem more real. As tributes go, it was an apposite reminder of the bizarre glory days of the real Glass Spider tour, but also a reminder that the past is sometimes best left to itself.

Picture Gallery:-

Glass Spider - Under the Bridge, London, 17/12/2013

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