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Bowie Tribute

There’s always a worry with a sequel, that will it live up to the first time out. But as T2 Trainspotting has recently proved (and if you haven’t seen it yet you really need to have a chat with yourself), when a follow up is done well it’s a wonderfully joyous experience.

Last year Limerick paid its own tribute to David Bowie with one of the best nights of music seen in the town in 2016. Such was the reaction to that night there was a fierce demand for a re-run and thankfully John Steele the man behind the original night answered the call, as did a raft of local bands. As with the original event all proceeds are going to charity with the recipients being the Lette March & Zondra Meaney medical funds.

In a reverse of last year’s iteration it’s The Alvin Purple Experience who kick off the festivities with a set dedicated to the glam rock era of Bowie with ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and a crowd rousing rendition of ‘All the Young Dudes’ ensuring that the bar is set at a very decent height from the off.

Next up it’s Theme Tune Boy, Limerick’s power pop punk outfit led by ex-Hitchers drummer Niall Quinn. It’s an instant sonic assault from them with ‘Little Wonder’ a joy to behold, vocal duties are shared between Quinn, drummer Kieran Hayes and finally lead guitarist Carolyn Bourke as they close their contribution to the night’s proceedings with a blistering version of ‘Andy Warhol’.

After those two stellar performances the pressure is on for Parliament Square but you wouldn’t think it as Brendan Markham and co. strut on to the Dolans Warehouse stage and immediately launch into a fantastically funked up ‘Let’s Dance’ followed by ‘China Girl’ another classic which sees Markham in full-on revelator mode. It’s a short set which leaves you hungry for more from a band that are totally “in the zone”.

But if that was good then what’s in store for the next 40 minutes is just sublime as John Steele and his band Fall Dogs deliver a performance that you just did not want to end. Their selection of songs is much changed from last year and displays the wide range that the Bowie archive offers beginning with a haunting ‘Life on Mars’ which sees Steele accompanied by some beautiful piano work by Ross Brennan. From that it’s highlight after highlight with the angry as fuck ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’, dedicated in opposition to “you know who”; while ‘Lazarus’ and ‘Where Are We Now?’ tracks from Bowie’s latter two albums are treated with due reverence and benefit from Steele’s gravely timbre.

There is also time for guest contributions from Ronan Mitchell and Eamon Hehir, the latter out-revelating Brendan Markham’s earlier efforts on a magically manic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The set closes with joyous renditions of ‘Heroes’, ‘Under Pressure’ and one of my personal highlights of the night ‘Absolute Beginners’ with Yvonne McCarthy lending her powerful voice on co-vocal duties.

If the night had ended then all in attendance would have gone home very satisfied, as it happens there’s still two more acts to enjoy. Next it’s long haired prog rockers Shardborne who are normally an instrumental outfit but here as with last year they add some vocals, with a searing guitar driven version of ‘Fame’ kicking things off as they are clearly here to enjoy themselves. That sense of fun continues till the conclusion of their set with a perfectly judged ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ being their outstanding moment.

And so it’s down to the last band on the bill The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, who are a perfect choice to close the night given that later this year they will be touring ‘Starman’ their latest Irish music collaboration with Liam O’Maonlai which will showcase the songs of David Bowie “as gaeilge”. But there’s no need for an Irish-English dictionary tonight as they stick to the original versions of ‘Quicksand’ and ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ but with the added unique BPLO twist and the beautiful harmonies of the Blake siblings. 

Their final song is ‘Space Oddity’ a perfect pitched end to another night that was as much a celebration of the Limerick music scene as it was a celebration and remembrance of one of history’s finest musical icons; it leaves all those in a packed Warehouse with broad smiles on their faces and Bowie’s songs in their hearts. Planet Earth maybe blue but the stars are shining a little brighter in Limerick tonight.

All money raised from The Bowie Tribute 2017 is in aid of the Lette March & Zondra Meaney - medical funds.