I saw the band Holy Holy perform at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale recently and it was truly a spiritual experience. The group of seasoned, talented musicians channeled the late, great David Bowie by performing many of his early songs.
Holy Holy, named after a song Bowie released in the early 70s, has strong ties to the beloved British artist the world has been mourning since he passed away in January. Its bassist is Bowie’s long-time producer Tony Visconti, who also performed on Bowie’s 1970 album “The Man Who Sold the World.” And Holy Holy’s drummer is Woody Woodmansey, who played in Bowie’s band, The Spiders from Mars.
The band’s mission is to honor Bowie and celebrate his artistry by performing his early songs from 1969 to the early 70s. Holy Holy formed and started touring before Bowie’s death. I was born in 1972 so I was too young to remember “The Man Who Sold the World” at the time it came out, but I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since I was in middle school. When my sister asked me if I wanted to see Holy Holy in concert, all I had to hear was “Bowie” and I was in.
Bowie’s Influence on My Early Years
Seeing the charismatic, blond artist belt out the soulful, catchy lines of “Let’s Dance” in a video on MTV in the early 80s was probably the first time I got a good look and listen to the former Thin White Duke. Later, I remember jamming to “Golden Years” played on a boom box in a classroom while I processed photos and wrote stories as part of my middle school yearbook staff.
As a shy and insecure teenager in high school, I found comfort and joy listening to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on a tape my sister made for me. I was creative, taking dance lessons and playing the trumpet in the school marching band, and I loved escaping through any artistic outlet. Hearing the harrowing tales of Major Tom leaving his wife behind to venture into space, then “floating in a most peculiar way” inspired me to follow my passions, even if I didn’t fit in with some of the cool cliques in school. Bowie made me feel like it was okay to be different, follow my instincts and pursue friendships with diverse groups of teens, not trying to fit into a cookie-cutter mold.
A Heavenly Journey through the ‘Golden Years’
Holy Holy brought back cherished memories of finding my own voice and identity, but also introduced me to Bowie on a newer, deeper level by performing songs I hadn’t heard before. I felt the euphoria and sense of escape I enjoyed as a teen while the band played other-worldly songs, the kind that made me feel like anything is possible and it’s good to dream.
The band got off with a bang, cranking out “Width of a Circle,” with lead singer Glenn Gregory beaming and capturing Bowie’s swagger and charisma. He kicked his leg in the air and swiveled his hips, delivering lyrics with ease and style. I got goose bumps and I was transfixed by the eerie vocals and hard-rocking guitar solos. I couldn’t take my eyes off the super-group as I bobbed my head.
Holy Holy made me want to jump out of my seat with the funky “Black Country Rock,” also from “The Man Who Sold the World.” I felt like I was inside a tent at a psychedelic circus as Gregory in his British accent sang “After All” with his band mates adding haunting back-up vocals. The band took us all on a journey with unexpected twists and turns, chord changes and a kaleidoscope of different instruments and diverse voices.
I felt a lump in my throat as I heard the familiar guitar chords of “Ziggy Stardust,” one of my favorite Bowie songs. Gregory captured the piercing, in-your-face style as he sang the lines about “Ziggy” playing guitar with the Spiders from Mars. I remember liking the clever line, “Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind” from the first time I heard the song.
When Holy Holy played “Changes,” it felt like coming home. I couldn’t stop singing and I could feel the smiles from my sister and other audience members around us. I loved hearing Visconti’s daughter, talented singer Jessica Lee Morgan (who also performed in the opening act at the concert) nail the saxophone solo at the end of the song. During the encore, I felt my heart skip a beat and I jumped to my feet to dance as the band played the rousing “Suffragette City.” I remember how amazing it was when I saw Bowie sing it in a concert I went to at The Palace of Auburn Hills in a Detroit suburb back in the early 90s.
Getting Close to Greatness
After the show I bought a CD of Holy Holy performing “The Man Who Sold the World” in London and I had the great pleasure of meeting Bowie’s former drummer Woodmansey. He was sweet, soft-spoken and modest and told me performing the show felt like “Christmas Day” for him. Watching the show for me was like Christmas, my birthday and the wildest, most fun rollercoaster ride I’ve ever been on rolled into one blissful experience.
I never had the honor of meeting Bowie but his music and life have touched me in so many ways throughout the years, as I know they have millions of other people. His music cemented a bond between my sister and I and other family members and friends over the years.
The songs not only bring me joy, but inspire me to create, embrace change and evolve, while being courageous enough to stand out in the crowd. Bowie expressed himself fearlessly with his fashion, sexuality and innovative songwriting and vocal style. He’s inspired me to take chances by starting my own small business, writing about new topics and starting new relationships personally and professionally.
As I face the strain of major changes in my life, Bowie’s music makes me realize once again it’s great to create my own path and not to try to be a cookie-cutter woman. No matter how old I get, I hope I will always be true to myself and explore new worlds, experimenting and creating like Bowie.
Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do to bring Bowie back, but his music and spirit will always be an important part of my life. And I bet Bowie is looking down from heaven with his contagious smile and nodding in approval of Holy Holy’s performances.