'You're face . . . to face . . . with the man who sold the world.'
So goes one of the many iconic lyrics from David Bowie's formative years. The words echo around the hollow room of the o2 Academy main stage, hanging in the air and full of the reverb that occurs during a soundcheck. And while not quite 'face to face' with the man himself, seeing Holy Holy play live is as close as you'll get these days . . .
Fronted by Heaven 17 lead singer Glenn Gregory, and with a backline including original Spiders From Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey and world renowned producer Tony Visconti picking up bass duties, it's easy to forget that you're listening to songs that came out 45 years ago. The dual riff of opener 'Width Of A Circle' cuts through the air like a hot knife through butter, and 30 seconds in, you know you're in safe hands. A perfect imitation of 'All The Madmen' follows, and immediately reminds you of the versatility you're in for across the evening. A surprising highlight was Marc Almond performing guest vocals for 'After All', showing a glorious tonal range.
During 'Gun Running Blues', the band handled the epic scale of the song succinctly, and the phenomenally difficult 'Saviour Machine' was performed with a proficiency usually reserved for a main-stage slot. 'She Shook Me Cold' bristled with raw, powerful energy, allowing Woodmansey's drums to breath life before captivating the audience with a pitch perfect rendition of 'The Man Who Sold The World'. A personal highlight, though, was final track 'Supermen'. The harmonies bounce through the audience, and the final note delivered by Gregory is dominating, delivering a truly show-stopping performance.
We were, however, only half way through.
Like the rest of the audience, I was in the dark as to what songs the second half of the gig would throw at me. I had my predictions, and thankfully, the first proved correct. The ominous, incredible, and beautifully hollow drum beat of 'Five Years' drifted across the audience, and it was non-stop from there. The energy's there, the charisma's there; take out any knowledge of Bowie and you'd have believed you were watching a band performing their own, personal, greatest hits. A medley, featuring such fan favourites as 'All The Young Dudes' and 'Oh You Pretty Things' got Almond back on stage, making use of his own, unique talents as a front man.
A shaky rendition of the classic 'Life On Mars' left me hungry for more up tempo tracks, and I wasn't disappointed. The iconic 'Ziggy Stardust' guitar line, proving the timeless quality of the original material, reaffirmed that the trust from the audience had not been misplaced. Winding the night down was the brilliant 'Rock 'N' Roll Suicide' and, just when you think it's all over, 'Suffragette City' blows you away, putting a cap on a truly spectacular show.
They're in their element; a group of veterans who, with a synchronicity that comes from passion and talent, didn't just play the songs; they performed them.
All photos courtesy of http://nickhynan.wix.com/photography
Full Set List:
The Width Of A Circle
All The Madmen
Black Country Rock
After All w/Mark Almond
Running Gun Blues
She Shook me Cold
The Man Who Sold The World
The Wild Eyed Boy/All The Young Dudes/Oh! You Pretty Things
Lady Stardust w/Lisa Ronson
Watch That Man w/Marc Almond
Life On Mars?
Rock 'n' Roll Suicide