Tony Vincent and the Boulder Philharmonic Traverse Bowie's Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes at Macky Auditorium

By: Adam Perry

Looking like a member of Bauhaus, vocalist Tony Vincent cut a unique figure on Pearl Street this past Sunday afternoon, carrying a Peppercorn bag after shopping there with his parents – in town from Albuquerque – the day after slaying David Bowie hits with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra at Macky Auditorium.

The 45-year-old Vincent – made famous by starring on NBC’s The Voice and in the first national tour of Rent – emerged onstage at Macky in a choker necklace, a black dress shirt, tight blue pants and black leather shoes Saturday night, leading the Boulder Phil and members of Windborne Music. The ensemble’s “Music of David Bowie” production was able to fill about three-fourths of Macky’s 2000 capacity, and those who snoozed on the event missed some incredible moments.

Vincent & the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo Credit: Amy Rune Carlson

Vincent & the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo Credit: Amy Rune Carlson

The setlist was not deep, focusing on Bowie’s most well-known pop classics, and not many to which an orchestra could lend much creativity or power. But when the juxtaposition of the rocking and the symphonic was magical, such as on the glam-rock standard “Starman,” the sparks that flew lived up to Macky Auditorium’s timeless façade.

Falling just short of the filthy distortion and energy that early Bowie axe-man Mick Ronson brought from the working-class Rats of Hull to the Spiders from Mars, Windborne guitarist George Cintron did his best Earl Slick impression leading the evening’s initial tunes – “Rebel Rebel” and “Ziggy Stardust.” Conductor Brent Havens quipped, “Is this what you expected?” to the mostly stilted, older and white audience, and Vincent aptly complimented Bowie for always “keeping us guessing” before the orchestra launched into a beautiful version of “Changes.”

Vincent went on hit-or-miss tangents between tunes, focusing on his self-professed lifelong “nerdy” obsession with “countless” interviews with and biographies of Bowie, perhaps the most renowned iconoclast in rock history. This worked when Vincent, for instance, glowingly introduced “Fame” – Bowie’s hit 1975 collaboration with John Lennon. But Vincent’s purported encyclopedic knowledge of Bowie’s catalog and legacy also missed the mark a few times, such as when he stressed that a “longing for love” was the common thread in Bowie’s nearly half-century catalog, stating, “that’s probably what he was getting at with this next song” as a set-up for “China Girl,” a cheeky and somewhat racist 1983 hit for Bowie that was actually written by Iggy Pop in 1976.

The balcony view at Macky. photo credit: Amy Rune Carlson

The balcony view at Macky. photo credit: Amy Rune Carlson

No matter – the Boulder Philharmonic’s arrangements were the real star of the show, which got better after intermission, not just because the song selection become more ambitious (with slightly more obscure songs like “Fashion” and “Young Americans”) but because I moved from the fifth row all the way to the balcony to hear and see the orchestra much better.

Windborne (which will return to Macky next February to present a highly anticipated night of Queen songs with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra) and Vincent were flashy and powerful, but it was the Boulder Phil’s soaring additions to on tunes like the funky 1980 mindbender “Ashes to Ashes” that made the evening truly memorable. Hopeless Bowie nerds might have flinched at Vincent’s occasional missteps on tiny details in lyrics, like singing “billions of swastikas in my head” instead of “visions of swastikas” in “China Girl” or “need an axe to break the ice” rather than “want an axe” in “Ashes to Ashes,” but when the orchestra came together with otherworldly dynamics and artistry on “Space Oddity” and “Changes,” to name a few, the heavens opened.

Vincent sang everything with talent and grace, but part of Bowie’s importance was bringing the vulnerable and the avant-garde to the pop and refined worlds and vice versa, so the most striking moment of the evening was watching a senior-citizen in the balcony break down in tears when the orchestra nailed a complex arrangement of 1972’s campy but genius and poetic “Life On Mars?

New Mexico native Vincent’s appearances in Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, American Idiot and We Will Rock You make him a perfect fit to sing certain classics from Bowie’s diverse career – such as “Changes” and “Life On Mars?”  However, it’s admittedly impossible for anyone, even dozens of dazzling musicians gelling in a giant orchestra, to do justice to the pinball-style catalog of Bowie, who once sang, “Until there was rock, you only had God.”

Coincidentally, Sunday morning in Boulder featured a 90-minute Bowie tribute concert for children and their parents at the Boulder Theater, and the contrasts were interesting and hilarious. Cover-band Loving the Alien – which jubilantly regaled a couple hundred locals with fun-loving Bowie tunes and crowd-participation treats like a parachute, sing-alongs and glow-stick jewelry – not only dug deeper into Bowie’s catalog than the Boulder Philharmonic, with tunes like the very orchestral “The Man Who Sold the World,” but (unlike Vincent) also didn’t cut out risqué Bowie lyrics like the line about Quaaludes in “Rebel Rebel.”

As Bowie’s diverse catalog grew, even the Thin White Duke himself, and the countless versions of his backing band, could never perfectly capture all of his unique eras of iconoclastic music in one evening. Vincent, Windborne and the Boulder Phil did an entertaining and memorable job trying to – at the very least – lend an energetic and symphonic angle to Bowie’s hits. It will be fascinating to see what they do with Queen’s catalog next year as well.

-Adam

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

An Update with Homevibe: Tall Heights Tonight + Ryan Montbleau for Valentine's Day

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Homevibe has a few shows on the horizon.

Last month, we had the pleasure of rocking out at three of Homevibe’s local shows- Willy Porter + Dave Tamkin, John Craigie + Reed Foehl, and the Homevibe for the Holidays Concert. As we settle into the new year, we’re excited to bring you info on some more of their gigs! Let us tell you a bit about what's coming up:

Tall Heights. Photo Credit: Jeff Fasano.

Tall Heights. Photo Credit: Jeff Fasano.

Tall Heights with Special Guests Poet’s Row & Paul Kimbiris - This Friday 01/29

Homevibe is going to make you feel right at home once again this Friday at The Walnut Room in Denver. Headliner Tall Heights are a harmony-heavy indie duo from Boston who NPR has called both “intimate and arresting”. And they would know- members Tim Harrington (vocals/guitar) and Paul Wright (vocals/cello) did a live taping with NPR’s World Cafe and performed on NPR’s Mountain Stage program. Tall Heights also had chart success last year, hitting Billboard’s “Next Big Sound” and iTunes Apple Music “Best of 2015”. After dropping their EP Holding On, Holding Out in October of 2015, Tall Heights have been touring stateside. Their travels continue through April, and while they’ve got a few Colorado gigs, Friday’s show is the closest to Boulder/Denver, it has two awesome guests on board (which we’ll get to in just a sec), and it’s a Homevibe show! So you know it’s going to be cozy and downright awesome. Which brings us to the other acts on Friday’s lineup: Poet’s Row is a Denver-based folk four-piece and Paul Kimbiris is one of Boulder’s most noteworthy singer songwriters. You might remember our album review of his full-length release, Dark Side of Pearl, or the fact that he played in our Fall Showcase with his band BLVD. This Homevibe bill is bringing a lot of talent to the stage, and two local openers is an awesome thing to see! So get tickets for this Homevibe event while you still can- just click here.

PS: Tall Heights just premiered their music video for their song "Spirit Cold" yesterday on PASTE- watch that here

Ryan Montbleau.

Ryan Montbleau.

Valentine’s Dinner & Concert with Ryan Montbleau - Sunday 02/14

Looking to impress someone special for Valentine’s Day this year? Then Homevibe’s got you covered! They’ve got a three course dinner by Per La Gente (and champagne if you so choose) + a solo performance by Ryan Montbleau at The Riverside in Boulder. Touring since the early 2000s, as a both a solo act and with his band, Montbleau has most recently been on the road for his 2015 solo release, Growing Light. His current performance set has been called “bold and barrier breaking, organically blending rock, funk, soul, folk, and psychedelia to create a sonic kaleidoscope… The night will kick off at 5PM with dinner; show starts at 8PM. We’ll bring you more coverage as VDay approaches, but in the meantime, get your tickets for the dinner and a show right here.

Stay tuned for more events and updates from us! We hope to see you soon.

-Hannah

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All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.