Six years after David Bowie’s death, his music comes to life in Heroes/Bowie/Berlin 1976-80, a large-scale tribute show from all over Quebec. It was first performed on April 15 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts before a tour that begins in Quebec City in June and continues in Ottawa in October and Europe in the fall. Rather than betting on a single singer, its creator, producer Claude Larivée (of La Tribu), opted to have it personified in three singers with an androgynous look and gestures inspired by the icon.
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Bowie never ceases to fascinate us. In recent years, his life has been told in comics, his universe has been dissected in an academic essay and a movie called Moon Age Reverie, based, among other things, on the artist’s personal archives and concert footage, will be presented in Cannes next month. His music is at the heart of Heroes/Bowie/Berlin 1976-80a tribute show dedicated mainly to his albums called his Berlin trilogy, Under, heroes Y tenantpublished between 1977 and 1979.
“For a music fan, Bowie is, of course, a fascinating character,” says Claude Larivée immediately.
As a teenager in the 1980s, growing up with punk, hardcore and post-punk, what interested me was his Berlin period, this moment when he left Los Angeles and went to live in Berlin with Iggy Pop.
Claude Larivée, producer
The songs from these three “artistically ambitious” albums, inspired among others by the krautrock of Kraftwerk and Neu!, make up the main part of the show. Heroes/Bowie/Berlin 1976-80. The producer and artistic director has grafted songs from the albums station to stationthat “foreshadows” the Berlin trilogy, and Scary Monsters, “which is the conclusion in terms of sound and themes”. Other additions: greed for lifeIggy Pop song, of which Bowie made the first two records during his stay in the shadow of the wall, and space oddity.
A tribute to the sound of Bowie
Claude Larivée has opted for fidelity: he has brought together a group of eight musicians placed under the direction of Daniel Lacoste, who must reproduce the original arrangements identically. “There is no improvisation,” emphasizes the producer, who adds that Bowie himself has rarely, if ever, transposed these ambitious arrangements on stage. His tribute to Bowie is above all that, by the way: a ride of sound, with the ambition of giving the viewer the impression of listening to the songs in all their richness and textures, “as if we had headphones in the room”.
Visually, it’s something else. Fearing that the bet of inviting a singer to play Bowie will only accentuate his absence, he bets on video sequences where the Thin White Duke never appears and that seek to translate his universe, the Berlin of the 80s, in particular. . Above all, to carry the songs he recruited three women little known by the general public: Gabriella (who participated in The voice in France), the singer-songwriter Loryn Taggart and Élisabeth Gauthier-Pelletier, an actress also trained in musical theater.
“Bowie, 45 years ago, was already totally 2022: androgynous and affirmed bisexual”, emphasizes Claude Larivée, to justify his choice. The producer had the trigger when he came across photos of supermodel Kate Moss and actress Tilda Swinton wearing Bowie stage clothes from that era. “Seeing that, I thought it was possible,” he says, though he acknowledges that the Berlin period is not Bowie’s most androgynous. With few exceptions, the stage costumes reproduced in the show are also quite masculine.
On a vocal level, it’s a big change.
Neither artist has a voice that comes close to Bowie’s. For the producer, it is another way to avoid comparison. For the viewer, it requires a lot of opening and adaptation.
we can’t hear Sound and Vision, ashes to ashes Where heroes without hearing the inflections of the Thin White Duke, which we don’t recognize in the show. However, Bowie’s presence is felt in the studied steps and gestures of the performers, orchestrated by choreographer Maud Saint-Germain.
“We did a free interpretation of Bowie,” insists Claude Larivée, who wanted to build a large-scale show with designers appreciated on the international scene, including Fred Caron (video creation) and Jean-François Coutre (set design and lighting). Heroes/Bowie/Berlin 1976-80 it is designed for great venues here and especially elsewhere. After some dates in the country, the tribute will be presented in Europe in the fall, starting with France.
Heroes/Bowie/Berlin 1976-80 It will be presented in Quebec City on June 3, in Trois-Rivières on August 31, in Ottawa on October 8 and additionally in Montreal from October 27 to 29.