“I’ll try this, I’ve been playing it the last couple of nights.” #DavidBowie died Monday; @CYHSYband played the living room Friday. Alec Ounsworth tunes and laughs off a question about whether he’s about to play his favorite Bowie cover mid-set. The next song may not even be on most casual fans’ radars, but Ounsworth used to perform it as one of his earliest covers. “There are a couple of moves in it I really like—but I’d hesitate to say they’re ‘typical’ David Bowie moves,” he says. “It’s very nice, emotive and it’s an unusual cover. It exhibits the romance in his songwriting.”
Ounsworth owns up to having the standard favorite Bowie LPs when starting out—Low, Heroes, and Station to Station. Yet tonight, he plays “Absolute Beginners.” Written for a mid-80s film of the same name that Bowie starred in, the original sounds very of an era: new wave-y, melodic sing-a-long choruses, a near-eight-minute uptempo ballad.
But the CYHSY version showcases the song Ounsworth hears through the synths. It has interesting key, tempo, and style changes; lyrics that push and pull an audience between longing, anxiety, and hope; and plenty of room for unique melodic flourishes (sax or guitar for Bowie, vocals for Ounsworth). Even on first listen, the reasons this became the CYHSY Bowie cover are evident: brilliant, subtle songwriting (Ounsworth’s passion) from one of his brilliant, subtle inspirations (Bowie).
Ounsworth has played living room tours across the US for the last three years. All the shows likely have a level of intimacy you can’t achieve in a club, but it feels like annual NOLA stop still stands out. He recorded Mo Beauty (which includes the partially “Jean Genie”-inspired “Me and You, Watson”) here and clearly remembers the time fondly, reminiscing about George Porter’s jabs or post-session drinks at Mimi’s. So during what would already be a special evening, timing inspires Ounsworth to elevate the experience further. Like Bowie, his song and the cover tonight, it’s a beautiful and memorable thing.
#music #reviews #NOLA
Setlist: 1) Into Your Alien Arms 2) You’re So Bad (Tom Petty cover) 3) Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood 4) Me and You, Watson 5) Over and Over Again 6) Same Mistake 7) What Fun 8) The Witness’ Dull Surprise 9) Absolute Beginners (Bowie cover) 10) Home on Ice 11) In A Motel 12) Is This Love? 13) Beyond Illusion 14) Details of the War 15) Satan Said Dance 16) The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth 17) [Tom Waits Cover] 18) Underwater
For three odd hours on a Saturday during Mardi Gras season, #DavidBowie shut down a large chunk of the French Quarter. Media outlets seem tentative to put a figure on it, but on the ground the number of people looked uncountable. Traffic apparently backed up on the nearby highway. Foot traffic engulfed a small red four-door and a Segway tour, both stuck in place outside of @PresHallBand for at least an hour.
Despite the shoulder-to-shoulder arrangement, the crowd embodied Bowie’s sheer joy. Parents hoisted kids onto their shoulders (often, each decked out in lightning facepaint); every glimpse of Win Butler’s pink suit solicited shrieks and sing-a-longs. And somehow this massive human amoeba continually moved in sync. Pres Hall’s percussionists, Tuba and trombone players all found enough arm room to keep the music coming throughout.
As you might expect from how easily Bowie’s hits have translated into genres like Portuguese folk, the traditional #NOLA brass versions of “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel, Rebel” and “Space Oddity” just worked. Riffs transferred from guitar to horn, vocals morphed into a blend of megaphone and screaming crowd. If Pres Hall and the @ArcadeFire cut the LP tomorrow, it’d slide right into the WWOZ rotation by the evening.
So it’s OK if many in attendance never heard of “Pretty Things” or even PresHall itself. (Frankly, lot of participants likely stumbled into everything unintentionally from nearby Bourbon St.) Arcade Fire, in another love letter to their adopted city, leveraged their influence to have the masses embrace local tradition in the name of Bowie. Nothing about it felt traditional, but the event proved uniquely New Orleans.
#secondline #music @mergerecords
Setlist: 1) Oh! You Pretty Things 2) Suffragette City 3) Rebel, Rebel 4) Space Oddity