Jeff Duff has spent decades being Australia’s answer to David Bowie – he’s finally formalised that homage with a tribute show, Ziggy – The Songs of David Bowie. However, it’s an ensemble effort with Steve Balbi (a founding member of Noiseworks) and Brydon Stace (a voice coach on The Voice) playing various Bowie incantations.
Although Duff takes the cake with his extravagant costumes and Bowie stage persona, even with his Andy Warhol-esque hair. Balbi was the most sexual, aping over the stage (and some of the musicians) during a sultry ‘Fame’ but it was during ‘Life on Mars’ that the diminutive Balbi displayed just what a big voice he has. Oddly, he did look more like Johnny Depp than The Thin White Duke and Stace looked well … like Stace — not that there’s anything wrong with that, as his voice was clearly the strongest of the three performers and neither does that observation imply Balbi or Duff fail vocally.
The fact is that these men are so consummate at their métier it’s impossible to set them apart with any significance beyond semantics.
There were a couple of technical difficulties on the night but they shouldn’t be repeated in future. Of the band, drummer Lloyd Gyi played par excellence, driving the music with all the authority of a Charlie Watts. Victor Rounds on bass is flawless as is Ross Middleton on flute and saxophone.
Guitarist Jak Housden gives Carlos Alomar a run for his money and solos to perfection on ‘Let’s Dance’. Keyboardist Paul Gray (of 1980’s band Wa Wa Nee) imparted a sensual backing to the aforementioned ‘Life on Mars’. Phil Ceberano on guitar was energetic, playful and delightfully Marc Bolan-ish dressed in bright white overalls and wearing red lipstick. Surprisingly, he sang lead vocals on ‘Moonage Daydream’. The sound engineers deserve a special mention for their superb work; they really did the audience a favour mixing the instruments to perfection.
The show itself is more rock ‘n roll than cabaret but it’s a wonderful romp through Bowie’s back catalogue and everything here is achieved at the highest level. The stated running time is 70 minutes but this show is done so well and the original compositions are so good it could easily go another 90 minutes. Only David Bowie can do David Bowie but his chameleon career is represented here with astonishing talent and élan. No fan of the music or the man could possibly leave disappointed.