Chris McKay

in

Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars Tribute Band

 

Friday October 31, 2008
 

Georgia Theater

Halloween Show!

Athens, GA

 

So where did I leave off last time?

Ah yes, the 7 members of the Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars tribute band were coming down the dressing room stairs to the stage of the Georgia Theatre at midnight on Halloween. The crowd was beginning to roar from front to back as the video screens kicked in.

Andrew kicked off "Five Years" with the drum intro. I didn't even put on my guitar until 3/4 through the first song. I just did the vocal "echoes". As the song built up, I looked out at the crowd. And it was a crowd. They were jammed in tight up front. Amanda was in the front row with a camera shooting away. By the time I kicked in the distortion to join in with the "Five Years" harmony and repetition, fists were raised, made-up faces throughout the venue were singing along and we were off. I did my best to make the song extra powerful with the chords I was slinging out.
 

    

 

"Soul Love" was the first song in which I really had to play. It was a nice smooth warm-up for "Moonage Daydream", which I believe was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. The highlight of the show for me was, not surprisingly, in this song as the "big solo" is here. However, it wasn't the solo that was the highlight. It was Abraham Lincoln. Yes. He was in the front row looking quite sublime. He picked up what I believe was a recorder and played along with the "flute" part that we did on the sax and keys. Amanda was right next to him and said he played it perfectly. I can only imagine that he knew this was coming and bided his time waiting for his big moment. How friggin' cool is that? Not long after that, the "big solo" did come. I didn't play it like the Ziggy album. I played it a lot closer to how Mick Ronson did it live and I think it was better because of it. I certainly had a blast doing it and it clearly went over well as those old screams that we used to regularly get when The Darlings would do "Phony".
 

   

"Starman" was really strong too. I was proud of the whole band for making this sound so close to the original while adding power that's not necessarily on the studio version. "It Ain't Easy" is my least favorite song from the Ziggy Stardust album. But you know what? I truly believe we not only play it very well but I think our version of this is superior to Bowie's version. "Lady Stardust" doesn't require much from me except a couple of harmonies and power chords so I took in the scene.

Meat Loaf and his duet partner (not sure if it was the "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" or "I'd Do Anything For Love" partner but I'd assume the former) were standing just to my right in the audience. They seemed to be digging it.

    

The Ziggy climax began with a stomping version of "Star" that lead into "Hang On To Yourself". I've been wanting to perform "Hang On To Yourself" since the Q-Sign days so that was cool just because of that. We extended the solo at the end of "Hang On" as Timi ran off-stage for a costume change. To even it out, I moved to the center to play rock star. I couldn't really hear what I was playing for a good while so I can only hope the solo was alright as I was ad-libbing! No one was grimacing in anything but a rocking out kind of way so I think I was good. We gave the song the big rock finale ending but instead of the sting at the end we ripped right into "Ziggy Stardust" and the place went ballistic. It was pretty awesome, I must admit. It's an intense feeling to hit a riff like that and have hundreds of people leap to their feet in excitement and recognition. I'd love to see some video or audio of the gig and this song. It's a sin that it seems to have not been recorded in any way. As I recall, we were darn near perfect on this one.

 

The same can't be said for "Suffragette City". Somehow, the band and I got off on the opening cues. I'm not really sure who got lost but it was funny enough to blow off and the band jumped right in and made up for it with enthusiasm. The whole place was yelling "Hey man" with us. This is also one of my least favorites to listen to but I get it after performing it live. It's a bundle of nerves and explosive energy and it's a ball to turn it loose on a crowd.

The Ziggy portion of the gig ended beautifully with "Rock And Roll Suicide". It may sound like it's an easy one but this is a pretty complicated tune full of arbitrary chord changes. Tonight, we got lucky and nailed it. Timi extended the "gimme your hands" bit for a while and did the whole slapping hands thing with the crowd who clamored to touch him. It was perfect.

Instead of taking our break, we moved right on into "Space Oddity". Apparently, there was a "space man" in a Major Tom outfit wandering the stage with us but I didn't even see him until the pics. I missed that and the video projection behind us. For the "lift off" section, I borrowed the microphone stand guitar-slide trick that I use at the end of "Phony". The crowd responded loudly. Again, I think this was kick-ass and in all honesty was probably the last truly great performance of the night from us. I know the ad-libbed guitar solo from me felt good and the sax solo / second lift-off was super-powerful, too.

After this, things got significantly sloppier if no less fun. During "Queen Bitch", I believe Timi got lost prior to the first chorus. He might not have been alone. Due to the meter, there was no was to cover it but we still recovered. "China Girl" was pretty good but a couple of cues got dropped in this one as well (Was that you, Jay?). I did have a lot more fun playing that one than I thought. "Rebel Rebel", ironically, was the one with the most massive mess-up of the night. It should've been one of the easiest. I have no idea what happened but it went south at the ending. Oh well. Considering we'd only had about 4 rehearsals with all of us prior to this night, I think we did darn well.

After "Rebel Rebel", we took a break while Timi, Jay and Andrew did a brief Kite To The Moon set. I went up into the dressing room with John to find we were sharing it with a giant-lizard-Godzilla-type creature. Nothing surprised me tonight. I sat out the first song and watched from the top of the stairs as all the dancers joined in. For the second song, I climbed down and hung out on the drum riser before joining Chris aka DeDe (of The Empties) in tossing confetti on the crowd, the band and the stage. I particularly enjoyed filling the hands of audience members so they could toss it back at us. I also got to put confetti on drum heads for Andrew to make explode. That was a cool visual that I've wanted to rip-off since I first saw Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" video.
 

       

By now, it was probably 1:30 in the morning and we were playing material that we'd hardly rehearsed. "Changes" was okay. It got the proper response even with some slight glitches. "The Jean Genie" is another one I've never been a fan of until now. It bores me to listen to but playing it live is different and since the audience was into it, it's even cooler. The strangest thing about this one is that tonight was the first time we'd actually tried to play it correctly. We'd jammed on it once or twice but never done it properly. I took the music-director role on this one and it worked out just fine.

"Heroes" could've been better. We did a re-arranged, more dynamic take on the extended version. I loved the build but I don't think it quite caught the fire that it could've and will if we get to do this again sometime. "All The Young Dudes" was close to right…at least until the ending. We did the a capella intro from the 1974 David Live version before kicking into the more well-known Mott The Hoople single. I thought the combination was a nice twist. As crazy as it sounds, I couldn't remember what that famous intro riff was supposed to sound like. I almost panicked. Luckily, my fingers remembered where to go and when I heard it, it clicked back in. This was another one that crash landed at the ending. I'm not sure what happened here either. I wonder how many people even noticed. The crowd was singing along with every word and that chorus is amazing with the mouths of so many people at work.


   


"Let's Dance" was too slow (despite my attempt at counting it in at a quicker pace and setting my delay to the tempo) but it still felt quite groovy. When Timi requested a dance, the audience did it. By now, Timi was in his "Thin White Duke" look, which certainly was much more suitable for these songs than the Ziggy one. I believe everyone except me (and maybe Chris aka DeDe who was on cowbell) took solos. Timi even strapped on the guitar and did a heck of a solo that reminded me vividly of the talent all through this line-up. He gave the original "Let's Dance" soloist (Stevie Ray Vaughan) a run for his money for sure.

We didn't take a break due to closing time fast approaching but people clearly still wanted more so we went out on the biggest limb of the night. Jay asked the audience how much leeway they were willing to give us. He and Andrew started the rhythm intro and I added some dissonant squonk. When the vocal began, "You remind me of the babe." "What babe?" The place went crazy again. I was shocked at just how many people knew "Magic Dance". It probably didn't hurt that there was rear-projection from the Labyrinth movie. My favorite response was from a straight up leather-bound guy who didn't look like he was dressed for Halloween. It was just who he was. He had been rocking out and head-banging prior to this but for "Magic Dance", he threw his fist in the air and was shouting "Dance, Magic Dance" with a massive smile on his face. We didn't even have a proper arrangement. It didn't matter. We winged it (wung it?) just fine. And it was fun. It was a lot of fun. I needed it. And it felt like I wasn't alone. I hope we get to do it again sometime, maybe with The Critical Darlings as the opener!

    



We all went up to the dressing room and there was a bunch of hugs to go around. "We did it" was the general thought. Before the hugs were finished, the crowd was chanting "one more song, one more song". It went on. We briefly discussed going back out while they chanted. Then Timi decided rightly to leave them wanting more. Another half-hour later, the crowd was gone and a crew was cleaning up all the confetti. One Georgia Theatre employee looked at me and then the confetti he was sweeping and said "You're killing me, man". Then he smiled. I apologized for the mess and he made it clear that he'd be happy to do it again for another night like tonight.

The feeling was mutual.

Athens, Georgia Set List

1. Five Years
2. Soul Love
3. Moonage Daydream
4. Starman
5. It Ain't Easy
6. Lady Stardust
7. Star
8. Hang On To Yourself
9. Ziggy Stardust
10. Suffragette City
11. Rock & Roll Suicide
12. Space Oddity
13. Queen Bitch
14. China Girl
15. Rebel Rebel
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Kite To The Moon Mini-Set / Ziggy Break
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1. Tigerz
2. Psychotic Possessive Sex Song
3. Sparke And Prance
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Bowie "Bonus" Set
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16. Changes
17. The Jean Genie
18. "Heroes"
19. All The Young Dudes
20. Let's Dance
21. Magic Dance

 

 

 

 

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All Photos by Amanda McKay. Copyright 2008.