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.

Wes Watkins Returns to the Colorado Music Scene

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Wes Watkins has returned with a bang. After a battle with epilepsy forced him to leave a touring stint with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats, Watkins made his way back to Denver and has been doing what he does best: playing music with every inch of his soul. Not one to stay offstage for long, Watkins came back to The Mile High City earlier this summer and managed to guest in twelve sets at The UMS with various performers, started recording an album for his project The Other Black, and has played gigs throughout the state with artists like Izcalli. How’s that for a homecoming, Colorado?

Last week, The Other Black performed at The Boulder Theater opening for Who’s Bad?, and if there was ever any question of Watkins’ capabilities as a frontman, let me lay those to rest for you now. From his trumpet and synth skills to his energetic engagement with the crowd to his incredible vocal range (when he hits those soulful low notes honey, you’ll straight swoon), Watkins proved he’s everything you want in the leader of his brainchild, The Other Black.

Wes Watkins.

Wes Watkins.

Watkins danced across the stage with finesse during most of the band’s tunes, backed by a 12-piece outfit that included four backup singers, two percussionists, and a small horn section. The group had a couple of minor sound issues in their set, like when they had to stop mid-song because Watkins’ keyboard was nowhere to be found in the mix, but overall they kept a crowd of a couple hundred people engaged who were mainly there for a Michael Jackson cover band. When you can get people up dancing and clapping along to your music, and they came for a band that plays zero originals, that says something.

Megan Crooks.

Megan Crooks.

The Other Black’s sound is a mix of soul and funky doo-wop meets R&B with a little baby bit of pop thrown in. It’s tasty, and we can’t wait to hear what they lay down on their next record, which is set to be finished near the end of the year.

Watkins’s triumphant return to the scene continues tomorrow night, when he will play a solo set at Larimer Lounge opening for The Shadowboxers. Keep up with The Other Black’s show schedule here, and we’ll keep you posted on their upcoming album as details become available.

Welcome home Wes.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 08/21 & 08/22

By: Hannah Oreskovich

It’s the weekend. Per usual, here’s your six Boulder:

Today (Friday 08/21)

the polkanauts.

the polkanauts.

The Polkanauts at Bohemian Biergarten 9PM-Close

That’s right Beat kids. Polka. But not just traditional polka. The Denver-based Polkanauts play metal, rock, punk, and surf variations of polka. Curious how this is done? We are too. So check out their show!

Moonwavve at Johnny’s Cigar Bar 9PM-Close

This electronic outfit is one of our Boulder faves. Remember when we wrote about them here? Eason’s voice combined with Warwick’s synth will take you into space. So launch yourself by rolling to Johnny’s tonight! Word on the street is they have a pretzel machine now. Time to nom.

the z boys.

the z boys.

The Zimmermans at Conor O’Neills Traditional Irish Pub 10PM-Close

The Zimmerman boys have been bringing Bob Dylan’s sounds to Boulder ears since 2006. Their covers rock out and as you know, we think Conor’s is always a fun time. Johnny’s and Conor’s are in close proximity, so double dip to both shows for a night full of good tunes.

Tomorrow (Saturday 08/22)

Bareface. polaroid per   the author  .

Bareface. polaroid per the author.

Bareface at Boulder Outdoor Cinema 730PM-Dusk

We just wrote about how much we dig this doo-wop lounge band yesterday. So tomorrow is your chance to lend an ear. They’ll all be dressed in costume for this screening of The Princess Bride, and they’d love it if you grooved with them before the film. So head on over.

G-Nome Project at The Lazy Dog 8PM-Close

G-Nome Project claim to be Israel’s premiere livetronica band and tomorrow they’re making a stop in the B on their tour. They say their sound is “grilled cheese funk at its finest,” so prepare to boogie. Roll down to the LD and check them out.

pettin'.

pettin'.

The Heavy Pets at Owsley’s Golden Road 8PM-Close

Get ready for some heavy petting tomorrow at Owsley’s. This five piece jam band from Florida have been around for a decade, and even played big festivals like Bonnaroo and Wakarusa years ago. So if you couldn’t see them then, or you’re just in the mood to chill at a bar with The Grateful Dead acid bears painted all over it, this one’s for you.

That’s it Boulder! Pick a show and we’ll see you there!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 08/14 & 08/15

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Friday and Saturday are finally here! Check out these Boulder shows the next two nights:

Today (Friday 08/14):

Ramaya and The Troubadours at The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse 8PM-Close

Ramaya is an LG regular. His sound has been described as “blending echoes of Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Wilco, and Jeff Buckley.” The last time we saw him, he brought the audience onstage for a Michael Jackson jam. Righteous. Roll to his show tonight and preview his music here.

ramaya.

ramaya.

The Goonies at The Bohemian Biergarten 9PM-Close

This iconic 80s film is also the name of one of Boulder’s most popular cover bands. They play a lot of 80s jams and will be rocking the Biergarten stage tonight. So if you want to get drunk on Das Boot and loudly sing along to Journey bro, this one’s for you.

the goonies.

the goonies.

Global Soul Experience at The Lazy Dog 10PM-Close

If you’re in the mood for some samba or sweet afrobeats, this show is a must. The GSE are from Boulder and blend a ton of genres together for an awesome listening experience. Go to this show if you’re in the mood for something funky and different. They will not disappoint.

GSE Keeping it classy.

GSE Keeping it classy.

James Thorpe at The No Name Bar 10PM-Close

James Thorpe will be rocking out behind the big brown door this evening. Ironically, he’s played a number of shows with Ramaya and other members of The Troubadours Collective, but tonight you can see him shine solo. Head on over.

jt.

jt.

Tomorrow (Saturday 08/15):

Monocle Stache at The Dark Horse 930PM-Close

We dig the name dudes. The Stache boys hail from Rollinsville, CO and are self-proclaimed “stoner rock”. They have a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe happening- you can check out their EP Prairie Fire here. Grab a Dark Horse burger and peep the Stache set.

yes.

yes.

Salem at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids 830PM-Close

Salem blend R&B, soul, and jazz for some seriously smooth listening. Frontwoman Ashley Sterling has a rich, hypnotizing voice and Cat Ackermann keeps things groovin’ on the keys. Grab a brew and give this five-piece from Breckenridge, CO a listen.

cat on keys.

cat on keys.

There's our list! Xoxo Boulder!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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