While singer David Bowie died in January 2016, his spirit lives on in the form of The Bowie Lives tribute show and lead singer Michael Bell.
The tribute band will be hitting the stage at the Regent Theatre on Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m., and tickets are still available for $35 each.
Bowie Lives started a few months after the singer’s death when several people reached out to Bell to see if he was up to the task of performing a tribute to Bowie.
“After his passing I got a lot of calls from people who knew my affinity for Bowie and also knew that I’d had a show in the ‘80s as well called ‘ChangesAllBowie’ that was at the foreground of tribute shows of the day,” says Bell.
He’d been off the scene for a number of years, and according to Bell, when he decided to come back and do something serious again, he began by singing the songs of crooners such as Frank Sinatra or Michael Buble.
“Then Bowie passed, and it took me about eight months to actually decide to do it and an old buddy – a music director – of mine kind of kept pushing me, and said, ‘Look man, you’re the guy to do this show, so I’ll put a band together for you, and if you like the band, let’s do it’,” says Bell.
He notes he’s been a fan of Bowie since he was 12-years-old, and has been singing the tunes of Ziggy Stardust since he was in high school.
He says they chose the title Bowie Lives because of the phrase “Elvis Lives.”
“I’ve always considered Bowie as big as Elvis in that way of being an artist that had influenced so much of the culture, so [calling it Bowie Lives] was the biggest idea that I could think of,” says the singer. “I just thought it engulfed everything, and also it appealed to me of using the idea of Bowie as something that’s innate in all of us.”
When Bowie died of liver cancer in early 2016, Bell says it hit him particularly hard.
“It was a real crushing day for me,” he says. “I still get choked up when I think about it… I remember reading the headline when I woke up in the morning, and at first it was just sort of like, ‘Oh my goodness he’s died.’ Then, as the morning went on, I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
He equates Bowie’s death to that of a favourite teacher from childhood.
“It was like, if you had that favourite teacher of yours that changed your life as a young guy, and then suddenly you find out years later after you become who you’ve become because of so many of the things that they’ve instilled in you that they’ve passed and they’re no longer there,” explains Bell.
In terms of the show, Bell says fans can look forward to a “historiography” of Bowie’s career.
“It’s very much like the show I did in the ‘80s, except that I have a full-blown band,” he says.
The show will start with the beginning of Bowie’s career with 1969’s Space Oddity and will end with 2016’s Lazarus. They then perform everything else in order in between.
While on their current tour, Bell and the band have been followed by Velvet Orb, a film company which has been documenting the show over the last year, led by filmmaker JC Velvet.
“He has been following us around for the last year to shows and interviewing industry people, and people who have known me over the years,” says Bell.
The movie will be called Being David Bowie and is a documentary “about what it takes to put a show like this together,” as well as Bowie and what the singer meant to Bell and others.
They initially thought they’d wrap up filming in January, but things have continued to progress for the band, and Velvet has continued to follow them on the tour.
They’re hoping for the film to hit the independent film circuit in 2021.
“It doesn’t just talk about me and the show, it really kind of talks about the essence of Bowie, and other things too in the context of what kind of effect certain musicians can have on other musicians, people, and culture,” says Bell.
For those interested in the film, visit beingdavidbowie.com.
For those hoping to purchase a ticket visit regenttheatre.ca