Concert Review: The Regeneration of Ziggy Stardust

By Contributing writer H. Reavis and photographer Song River

When it comes to David Bowie fans, it's safe to say that there are new wave fans, old wave fans, and then there's David Brighton level-fans. For over twenty years, Brighton has slipped into the costumes and persona of the original glam rocker. Along with the amazing accompanying talent of the band Space Oddity, Brighton has paid tribute to Bowie's amazing career. What started simply as a fan paying homage to an artist he admired, quickly took traction as Brighton found himself working side by side with Bowie himself for a Vittel water commercial in 2013. Brighton had established himself as the Bowie impersonator.

Following a successful European tour, Brighton and Space Oddity touched down back in the states. On July 14 at the Orange County Fair, they brought with them the entire Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album, plus a host of other well known hits.

In a post-Bowie time it might be considered ill form to imitate him; to call one's self a tribute act. To say that the audience wasn't filled with some trepidation would not due justice to the dedicated fans who came out to the show. Filled with anticipation, they waited on the edge of their seats as the music swelled. Shouts rang out in recognition of songs loved and appreciative applause rippled round. But it wasn't until the final chords of “Space Oddity” that the mood shifted. it was as if permission for the past year's dirge to be complete was granted and the crowd was allowed to celebrate the life we all knew with the maddening guitar intro of “Suffragette City.” No longer content to sit in their chairs, the crowd rose up to clap in time, sing along, and dance to many more classics such as “China Girl” and “Modern Love.” A highlight being the emotional “Heroes” which had many fans crying. The encore closing “Rebel Rebel” brought the house together to end the night on a high worthy of torn dresses.

Brighton and Space Oddity pay tribute to Bowie without claiming any rights to the original genius. They know the words, the music, the look, and allow for it to deliver itself. Perhaps giving a whole new definition to the term 'art rock,' Brighton's costume changes alone allowed for a magical time warp. The futuristic shoulder wings and iconic blue suit paired with the flaming red hair allowed the audience to travel back to 1972 where we all freaked out in a “Moonage Daydream” and waved to the “Starman” waiting in the sky. Only to then barrel into the early 1980s in platinum blonde hair singing hits such as “Let's Dance” and a fantastic “Under Pressure” duet with guitarist Paul Nelson.

Ever respectful of the fans who loved the man he's impersonating, Brighton invited everyone to a meet and greet, a personal space to say thank you, after the show. In the receiving line the love he had generated with his dedication to the look and feel of Bowie's music was returned in embraces, mementos, and words of gratitude that Bowie's legacy was still being kept alive. One fan remarked, “I've seen him (Brighton) three times. I never made it to see Bowie. This fills that hole.” A catharsis for those of us who still wait for the return of the Thin White Duke.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom (ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God's love be with you (two, one, liftoff)
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I

David Bowie, Mick Ronson (lead guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass), Mike Garson (keyboards),
Mark Carr Pritchard (guitar), Aynsley Dunbar (drums)