As David Bowie’s keyboardist, Mike Garson admits he didn’t quite understand the popularity of the Thin White Duke.
“I was behind him, backing him up, so I saw his back,” Garson says. “I’ve seen YouTube videos and DVDs since his passing, and this guy was even better than I thought.”
Now, Garson is honoring the musician through A Bowie Celebration, a concert tour featuring players who backed him and those who were influenced by him. It comes to The Rose on Friday, March 6.
The band will perform 1974’s “Diamond Dogs” and 1972’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” in their entirety with three singers—Corey Glover of Living Colour fame, Canada’s Sass Jordan and Sting’s son Joe Sumner of Fiction Plane.
Others in the band include bassist Carmine Rojas, guitarist Gerry Leonard, Kevin Armstrong and drummer Alan Childs.
“We’re pretty lucky,” he says. “The whole band is alumni who worked with David in different parts of his life.”
“It’s authentic sonically to my ears. We have three singers because it takes a village to bring David’s music to life. In Pasadena, we’ll have guest artists popping in that night like Judith Hill, Gaby Moreno, Perry Farrell (of Jane’s Addiction) might stop by if he’s in town. Gary Oldman may stop by, he loves David’s music and he sings pretty well. The band is entirely self-contained, but it’s nice when others drop by.”
Audience demand dictated their inclusion, Garson says.
“I had done songs over the last three or four years, and people requested something different,” Garson says.
“‘Diamond Dogs’ is an interesting album. Nobody heard it in its entirety live. With the ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour in ’74, we only did some of those songs. Some of the songs had never been played. It just flows really nicely. ‘Diamond Dogs’ is a darker album. ‘Ziggy,’ everybody knows. It’s a nice balance. It keeps it interesting for myself and the band and the fans.”
Garson was always a fan of Bowie, but heard his voice get “richer” in the 1990s and 2000s. Other things changed as well throughout the years.
“I was with him on the Nine Inch Nails tour,” he says. “I love Trent Reznor. We’re good friends. On that tour, they sang each other’s songs. It was mostly Trent’s fans at that time, though. We had to compete with a much younger audience, and Nine Inch Nails was a much louder band.
“We had to add sub bass to our music to watch their volume or it would have sounded like we were really outdated. I don’t know if that was a mistake or not.”
When Garson thinks back about Bowie—especially in A Bowie Celebration’s first couple years—he wells up.
“It’s been bittersweet,” he says. “I think I cry every night. Sometimes the audience sees it; sometimes they feel it. It’s a group grief because he left us too soon. I was saying to one of the audiences that my biggest regret was taking certain things for granted. I just tell myself, ‘Oh, I screwed up that one.’”
A Bowie Celebration w/special guest 3 Fing3rs
7 p.m. Friday, March 6
The Canyon at The Rose, 245 E. Green Street, Pasadena $28-$68