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Adrian Belew, Todd Rundgren Bring All-Star Band Celebrating David Bowie’s Music to Tarrytown

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October 7, 2022

By W.B. King—

The year was 1977. A struggling musician was driving up 21 First Avenue South in Nashville in his old beat-up Volkswagen bus. The countless gigs played with various bands in bars and clubs over the preceding 10-plus years were rewarding, but at age 27, he thought he might have “missed the starting gun” as Pink Floyd notes in “Time.” As he drove home that day, hoping not to breakdown once again, a fortuitous song by David Bowie emerged from the speakers.

“’Heroes’ came on and I just loved it. It was the first time I heard it,” Adrian Belew told The Hudson Independent. “And 18 months later, I was playing it on stage with David; so that’s how fast all that stuff happened. Still amazes me.”

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Before landing his gig with Bowie, Belew, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his unique guitar prowess and vocal stylings, was discovered by Frank Zappa. The heralded rock, pop, jazz fusion and orchestral composer was convinced by his chauffer to visit a bar where Belew was playing in Nashville.

While Zappa was impressed, nearly a year would pass before Belew was offered an audition in Los Angeles. “I was poor. Three months late on my rent and at the end of my tether,” Belew recalled. Eventually after fits and starts, he secured the second guitar role in Zappa’s touring band.

“Frank was brilliant. and he wanted you to just play his music exactly the way he wanted it,” recalled Belew who appeared on the1979 album Sheik Yerbouti, as well as the1979 concert film, Baby Snakes, which documented the band’s October 1977 Halloween run of shows at New York City’s Palladium.

When Zappa’s band headed to Europe in 1978 for a string of concerts, Belew would have a serendipitous encounter that found him floating in a most peculiar way.

“We had played in Cologne, Germany and [producer] Brian Eno was in the audience. Eno knew that David was looking for a new guitarist for his next tour. So, two nights later we played in Berlin. David came to the show along with Iggy Pop,” Belew continued. “I just happened to leave the stage at one point while Frank took a long guitar solo and I saw them standing by the monitor mixer.”

Belew walked over and politely introduced himself, explaining to Bowie how much he loved his music and how it had positively impacted his life. Bowie’s response: “Great. How would you like to play with me?”

As fate would have it, Zappa’s last show took place two weeks before Bowie’s tour rehearsal was slated to begin. And while Belew said “it made a lot of sense for me to do the tour,” he was loyal to Zappa. It turned out that Zappa would be off the road spending the next number of months editing Baby Snakes, so he gave Belew his blessing.

“David, like Frank, was brilliant but in a different set of ways. He wanted me to make up my own stuff to play and fill the air with a lot of guitar stuff,” said Belew who played on Bowie’s Isolar II Tour in 1978, resulting in the double-live album, Stage. He would later contribute to Bowie’s 13th studio album, Lodger.

“They were two different ways to go about music, but I got both of those sides over two years and that set me up for just about everything else,” Belew said of his experiences with Zappa and Bowie.

Twelve years later, Belew, who had spent the preceding decade playing with King Crimson, the Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club and Paul Simon, among others, was tapped as the musical director for Bowie’s 1990 Sound+Vision Tour. During the 108-date world tour, Belew also sang and played guitar.

“David was a super star, but if you traveled with him every day for a whole year, you got to know him, of course. He was very funny and informative with a lot of interest in a lot of different things,” Belew said. “We could just talk for hours. On one day off, we went to the Prada Museum [Museo Nacional del Prado] in Spain. As we were walking around, he started telling me the history of the different paintings. He was my tour guide.”

Golden Years

Belew, along with famed multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter Todd Rundgren, and a host of A-list musicians, will be tour guides of sorts on Oct. 23, 2022, when they bring the “Celebrating David Bowie” show to the Tarrytown Music Hall.

“The songs are drawn from his [Bowie’s] whole catalog,” Belew said. “We try to sprinkle in some songs that are off the beaten path and mix those with the songs everyone will know.”

Angelo “Scrote” Bundini, the musical director for the 30-date tour, explained the tribute to Bowie’s career began in 2016 after the “Ashes to Ashes” singer sadly passed away from cancer. After rebounding from the “shocking” news, Bundini developed a one-off performance celebrating Bowie’s music, which also served as a fundraiser for a charity close to Bowie’s heart.

“It turned into a four-hour show with 70 performers coming on and off stage, including former Bowie band members,” Bundini said of the sold-out concert at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. He added that other artists, including singer Seal and actors Gary Oldman and Ewan McGregor, participated.

“I thought that would be the end of it, but the show went viral and there were offers to do more shows,” he said. “Six years later…we’ve played on five continents and in 17 countries and we are still going. We have had a lot of guest stars—it’s been an interesting ride.”

Bundini, a longtime Bowie fan, will also play guitar and sing on the tour that will make stops throughout the United States and Canada. On select dates, special guests will include Jeffrey Gaines, Joe Bonamassa and Thomas Dolby, among others.

“Everyone has their own Bowie. They have their favorite songs, their favorite period—everyone feels personally connected in their own way, so it’s very powerful,” he said. “Bowie didn’t have one particular image or style. He had 26 albums…the show goes fully through his career, and I know that because I made the set list.”

Ch-Ch-Changes

Along with Belew, Rundgren and Bundini, the band playing at the Tarrytown Music Hall show will feature singer Angelo Moore (Fishbone); Royston Langdon (Spacehog); Travis McNabb (Better than Ezra); celebrated rock saxophonist Ron Dziubla; and bassist Angeline Saris.

“I have certainly always loved Bowie, I mean who doesn’t—there is a lot to love there,” said Saris, a Bay Area musician who has performed with the Narada Michael Walden Band, Angelex, Ernest Ranglin, Zepparella and has shared the stage with Carlos Santana, Ronnie Spector and Steve Vai.

“Bowie had that blue eyed soul and a huge appreciation for Motown, R&B and that genre of music, but he did it in a way that was authentic to him and of course it led to rock,” Saris said. “The Ziggy Stardust period is really different than his music that came 10 years later and then different than the music he made more recently.”

In preparation for the tour celebrating this textured, innovative and challenging catalog of music, Saris has been studying the unique chops of Bowie’s previous bass players, including Trevor Bolder, George Murray and Gail Ann Dorsey, all of whom approached the music differently. Being the only female member in the band, Saris finds a special kinship with Dorsey.

“I loved Gail’s playing. She was a great fit for that band—energetically and musically,” she said. “From my understanding, Bowie really loved and respected her, so it’s an honor to be kind of playing that role.”

While this will be Belew’s first tour with Saris, he noted that there are “core” musicians, such as Bundini, Moore and Dziubla, who have been playing together in this band from the beginning.

“I’m really excited to play with her [Saris]. It will be good to have her in the band. It’s nice to have a group of people who are varied—not all from one background,” said Belew. “We have had all kinds of people in the band and I really like that because that’s what music is…music is from everywhere and from everybody.”

For tickets information, visit: www.tarrytownmusichall.org.

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