David Bowie 1947-2016: Often Copied, Never Equalled

Scary Monsters Ad NME Sept 27 80

A week after Bowie’s passing and I still can’t quite process that he has gone.

I was pretty gutted when Lou Reed died but Bowie’s death has hit me even harder. It’s impossible for me to think back on my life without the music of David Bowie being an integral part of its soundtrack through the decades. We’ve lost a creative giant and someone whose work touched my life irrevocably. This is a real chapter-closer, severing a big link with my youth.

However, it’s heartwarming to see the amazing reaction the world the world has given him upon his passing. And he went out on top, doing his best work in decades with Blackstar, upping the bar he’d been resetting with Heathen and The Next Day.  I am glad I had three days to listen to and absorb it prior to his death, marveling that, at age 69, he was actually breaking new ground, with Blackstar largely being unlike anything else in his back catalogue. I can think of other music artists doing good stuff at 69, but I for the life of me can’t think of anyone other than Bowie doing something new at that age, and doing it well. That’s inspiring.

I was lucky enough to see Bowie five times and, in writing about the first time in 1983, I also wrote in-depth about what Bowie meant to me and how he impacted my life.  I’ll simply relink to what I have already written rather than further reiterate.

Thanks for everything, David. RIP.  You’ll be missed.

022a: Changes: Bowie, The 70s and Me

022b: Let’s Dance: David Bowie with Rough Trade, CNE Stadium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Saturday September 3, 1983

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VA’s Best of 2014: Fave Music, Media and Re/Discoveries From The Century’s Inaugural Teen Year

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(Top Photo montage/doctoring by VA — original photos taken at the downtown Bank St. location of Compact Music here in Ottawa and at Chez Various: Click on photo to see full size image.  Below: This and all other labels on the page doctored by VA from my personal vinyl bounty).

After a relatively-weak-year-for-albums 2013, 2014 should have been the antidote for me: seemingly almost every currently working artist that I listen to released a new album while many of my favourite legacy acts put out compilations, archive sets or deluxe reissues.

And in many ways, 2014 was an antidote. Read the rest of this entry »


176. Lightning: Ottawa Jazz Festival 2013 with David Byrne & St. Vincent and Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, June 23 & 29

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My wristband for the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival and Macaulay Culkin sporting an appropriate facial gesture. (All photos and scans by VA.)

176. Lightning: Ottawa Jazz Festival 2013 with David Byrne & St. Vincent, Sunday June 23 / Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Saturday June 29, Confederation Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, $165.00 for a (largely wasted) Festival Pass

Another year, another Ottawa Jazz Festival: more great music intersecting with frustrations.  In other words, business as usual.

This year’s J Fest appeared as a terrific proposition with a stellar line-up anchored by its biggest star, Ms. Aretha Franklin, along with the currently touring collaboration between ex-Talking Head David Byrne and the fabaroony St. Vincent aka Annie Clark.  Sweetness!  Not only that but Willie Nelson, The Bad Plus, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Mavis Staples, and a few other options. Read the rest of this entry »


Picture This: VA Poster Collection Highlights

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Howdy to those of you on both Open Salon and WordPress … I’ve had another OS/WP absence owing to a few reasons: life stuff, some needed household re-arranging, and a spell of writer’s block.  I was also having too much damn hot fun in the summertime as of late, seeing a slew of great gigs over the past two months.

Well … that fun seems to have unblocked things. Read the rest of this entry »


022b. Let’s Dance: David Bowie with Rough Trade, September 3, 1983

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Ten years on from my hearing “Space Oddity,” I finally get to see and hear Bowie live during the Serious Moonlight tour.

022b. Let’s Dance: David Bowie with Rough Trade, CNE Stadium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Saturday September 3, 1983, $22.50

In Part One, I wrote about what Bowie and glam rock meant to me, my impressions on how his emergence had a broader impact on the 1970s, and explored his musical shape-shifting.
In this third and final segment, I focus on his 1983 comeback via the glossy commercial juggernaut, Let’s Dance, and my thrill at taking in a brilliant set at CNE Stadium — with openers Rough Trade — along with my pal Miss Bennies and 60,000 others over the Labour Day weekend.

Interest ran high for this new Bowie album in my corner of the world. What bold new step forward would this upcoming release portend? What adventurous new direction would his sound take?

In my mind, I had the idea that it would be some kind of merge between synthpop and noisy, angular post-punk experimentation, something like The Human League meets The Birthday Party. Read the rest of this entry »


173. Hold On Me: Esperanza Spalding with Gretchen Parlato, June 28, 2012

Esperanza Ticket 2012 This was one hot show, in both good and bad senses.

173. Hold On Me: Esperanza Spalding with Gretchen Parlato, Toronto Jazz Festival, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Thursday June 28, 2012, $48.25.

It was less than one week after experiencing the brilliant Janelle Monáe under unnecessarily difficult circumstances thanks to the intuition-challenged burghers of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and here we are five hours south at the Toronto equivalent. Staged right downtown at the feet of City Hall, Cublet and I were here to hear the similarly-brilliant Esperanza Spalding and her big band wail away, showcasing her new release (and one of 2012’s very best), Radio Music Society. Read the rest of this entry »


156. It’s the Year Two Thousand & Ten: Broken Social Scene, December 16, 2010

BSS Dec2010 Blog  2010 draws to a close, re-capping a key soundtrack for my year.

156. It’s the Year Two Thousand & Ten: Broken Social Scene with Here We Go Magic, Bronson Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Thursday December 16, 2010, $41.

In the course of being a multi-decade gig-goer, there are several acts I have ended up seeing five times or more. David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, and Rufus Wainwright among a few others are part of my “five or plus” club, and with this December gig at the Bronson Centre, Toronto-based collective Broken Social Scene are now members in good standing. Read the rest of this entry »