This fall, the Celebrating David Bowie Tour returns for its third and easily longest tour, stopping in nearly 30 cities across the United States and Canada.
The show arrives at Penn’s Peak at Jim Thorpe on October 28.
The musicians who make up the band for the tour include such notables as Todd Rundgren (vocals/guitar), Scrope (guitar/tour producer), Royston Langdon (frontman of Spacehog), singer Angelo Moore (of Fishbone), the bassist Angeline Saris and drummer Travis McNabb.
But the other star musician, Adrian Belew, has a direct connection to Bowie, having toured with the late rocker great on the 1978/79 ‘Isolar II’ tour. Belew also played guitar on Bowie’s 1979 “Lodger” album and served as musical and recording director on Bowie’s epic 1990 “Sound + Vision” tour.
Belew has been in the core group for all three Celebrating David Bowie tours, and says this outing is more ambitious than the 2017 and 2018 tours.
“The other two tours were very short. Basically, each of them was targeting major markets,” Belew said in a phone interview. “So we were going to play, say, two nights at the opera in Australia, one night in Japan, then one night in London, one night in New York. But this tour is different in that it’s about a full city to city tour, something we’ve never done before, that will cover the US and parts of Canada so it’s like having a real band all of a sudden instead of this an event of five concerts.
The show seeks to answer the question of what made Bowie different, and the band Celebrating David Bowie, with three guitarists and six vocalists, has the arsenal to do Bowie’s vast catalog justice.
“It’s a really good mix of lesser-known songs (and) more open songs that everyone’s been hoping for, like ‘Heroes’, ‘Life On Mars’ and ‘Space Oddity’,” Belew, 72, said. “There’s things from ‘Ziggy (Stardust),’ there’s things from ‘Young Americans’, there’s things from all facets of his career, later career as well.
“I think for what we’re trying to put together, it will give you great insight into the artist himself,” the singer/guitarist said. “I think if David saw this show, he would be really happy.”
Belew is qualified to give his opinion on how Bowie would view the tour, given the friendship that developed between the two, particularly during the “Sound + Vision” tour. Belew was offered the slot by Bowie on his 1978/79 tour on the recommendation of producer Brian Eno, who had witnessed Belew’s unconventional and singular guitar style at a Frank Zappa concert in Cologne, in Germany, in 1977, when Belew was part of Zappa’s touring band. .
Bowie’s offer created a dilemma.
“Well, I didn’t want to leave Frank. I was really hoping to continue with Frank. But who can refuse David Bowie? Belew said, noting that Zappa had told his band they would soon have a four-month break from touring while he put together the movie “Baby Snakes.”
“David, when he approached me, told me it would be a four month tour. So I went to see Frank after finding out it was a real offer, I remember I was at the back of the bus sitting there with him and I said ‘What do you think I should do?’ He said ‘I think you should go do the David Bowie show and then come back.’ We shook hands on it, but it didn’t work out that way. He started a new band and Bowie’s tour lasted a year and a half.
Belew, who remained good friends with Zappa, went on to play on Bowie’s Eno-produced “Lodger” album, the third installment in the so-called “Berlin Trilogy” of Bowie albums which was preceded by the “Low” and “Heroes”. scrapbooks. By this time, Bowie was known for his shape-shifting music, moving from pop-rock early in his career to the glam sounds of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane” albums, to ” Young Americans’ before moving to West Berlin in 1976 and incorporating ambient styles and krautrock into his music on ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Lodger’.
Eno’s approach to “Lodger” was anything but conventional. He didn’t let Belew hear any of the songs he would play beforehand, and didn’t even tell him the key of each song. Instead, Belew was tasked with playing the guitar parts and solos that came to mind when he first heard the songs.
“The accidental response, that’s what they called it. As soon as it looked like I knew what I was doing, they cut me off,” Belew joked.
In fact, his playing was a major influence on the more rock-oriented “Lodger” album, and Belew’s reputation as a guitar innovator was further enhanced when he worked with the Talking Heads, adding guitar on the groundbreaking 1980 African-influenced album “Remain In Light”. and playing on the Talking Heads tours in late 1980 and 1981.
Belew’s next venture was to partner with Robert Fripp in what became a new edition of King Crimson. Belew was the lead vocalist, guitarist, and one of the main songwriting contributors in the various incarnations of this band from 1981 to 2009.
Between Crimson projects, Belew began what has become a prolific solo career which, with the release of his latest studio effort, “Elevator”, now boasts 25 albums. He also played in the excellent pop group The Bears and did numerous recording sessions (notably on Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and a pair of Laurie Anderson albums).
Then, of course, came a second stint with Bowie, this time on the epic “Sound + Vision” tour. It was a very different experience for Belew than on the “Isolar” II tour.
“In the group of 1978 and 1979, David, I think, was going through a troubled part of his life. I wouldn’t know for sure, but there was a pretty good buffer around him. So it was not easy to huddle and be friends,” Belew said.
“On the 1990 tour, it was totally the opposite for me. I was the musical director, so he spent a lot of time with me doing the arrangements and making the music he wanted. And then the tour was lasted so long… 27 countries. We had Lee Iacocca’s jet, and there were so many other things going on, that I had a very close time with David. It was a great reward of this tour for me was the fact that we had days to spend in museums and doing things together, eating out at restaurants. Getting to know each other as people was so wonderful. He was such an amazing person .
“He had so many interests, a very inquisitive mind,” the guitarist said of Bowie. “And when he was interested in something, he knew a lot about it.
“It would kind of exhaust the subject. So you could jump from topic to topic and he knew exactly what he was talking about, never a lack of conversation there. And I loved how he was doing the same thing with his music, continuing to reinvent himself, and therefore his music.
“I always thought David was the shrewdest of all the stars, the big stars. He’s right there with the Beatles. But I think most of his career was built on, I don’t know, artistic type things rather than mere commercialism. But he also had such commercial success with that, it’s a rare thing.
Alan Sculley is a freelancer for The Morning Call.
When: 8 p.m. October 28
Where: Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe
How much: From $46
Tickets and info: pennspeak.com