Guess Who Had The Guts (And The Chops) To Cover Bowie’s “Blackstar” In Concert?

Do a YouTube search for “david bowie tribute” and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of clips of various artists performing David Bowie songs over the past year, and it’s a wonderful thing to see the great man’s music being performed in halls and venues all over the world.

One of the things that made Bowie so great was the sheer range of sounds and styles that he explored throughout the length of his career. His catalogue is so eclectic and so powerful that no matter where you live or what styles of music you play, David Bowie had at least one song that reached you. You can find clips of Bowie being covered by just about any kind of musicians – jazz, classical, country, EDM, folk, hip hop, metal – which I think says everything you need to know about the guy.

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There’s a few Bowie back catalogue numbers that get covered more often than others. “Rebel Rebel” is popular because it may be one of his simplest songs to play, and “Heroes”, “Ashes To Ashes” and “Life On Mars” garner lots of covers too. But I’ve noticed that not too many people are taking on anything from Bowie’s final album Blackstar, which I completely understand. It’s a pretty intimidating piece of work to cover.

Not only is it a dense, rich, complex album, it is also such a personal testimonial that it feels kind of like a sacred text in the aftermath of Bowie’s sad departure. But if someone were to ask me to guess who pulled off a truly great cover not only of the song “Blackstar” but also “Lazarus” at a Bowie tribute concert in L.A. earlier this week, I would never have guessed Sting, but there you go, life is for learning. Take a look for yourself.

Playing the medieval incantation first section of “Blackstar” with a flamenco-style guitar was a stroke of genius. This particular tribute tour features some fantastic musicians including Bowie’s long-time pianist Mike Garson and underground guitar god Adrian Belew, and they help navigate the song’s dynamic range beautifully and flawlessly.

When Sting puts the guitar down and opens up the song’s transcendent middle section:

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody took his place, and bravely cried:
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar

I’ve got to say it was an incredible moment, dare I say a great moment in Rock history. Epic is an appropriate word. Sting is a great talent, and the Police helped change Rock history with some real innovative stuff, but his attitude usually rubs me the wrong way. I’ve got to say this really impressed me.


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