BOWIE Unzipped (Jeff Duff)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre
I have never seen David Bowie in concert, but after experiencing Jeff Duff’s portrayal of the Thin White Duke’s music in “BOWIE Unzipped”, I really hope I do. Duff, who was the front man of 1970s jazz-rock fusion band Kush, is a glitter rock aficionado, as is immediately clear when he takes centre stage in his tight pants and platform heels before later changing into sparkling suits of glittering gold and blue, complete with top hat and angel wings adornments. And it is not just his glam rock garb that appears authentic. Duff has a mighty voice and there are moments during numbers such as ‘Sorrow’ that, if eyes were closed you could well be listening to the distinctive voice of the iconic man himself.
From the opening strains of ‘Young Americans’, it is clear that this a show about its music and its musical repertoire is appropriately eclectic, as it attempts to homage Bowie’s many years of musical innovation and continual reinvention. The standards are there of course, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Life on Mars’ etc, with ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Heroes’ featuring as particular standouts. But there are also less obvious choices, such as the glam rock anthem ‘All the Young Dudes’, and Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. And Duff shows amazing versatility as he shifts seamlessly between musical styles, from glitz’n’glam to sultry renditions, supported by a killer all-star band, featuring guitarist extraordinaire Jack Housden from The Whitlams.
Duff’s stagecraft is testament to his seasoned performer status; he easily makes his way into the audience and responds without loss of a beat to audience heckles and even throws in an amusing dolphin impression here and there. Songs are effectively peppered with anecdotes from the time when he and ‘Dave’ used to hang out in Sydney while Bowie was recording the Tin Machine albums (for ten years, Duff lived next door to Bowie when he was a resident in Elizabeth Bay), as well as stories from his Midday Show antics of years gone by.
“BOWIE Unzipped” is not a show for the faint of heart. As Duff announces early on, “when it comes to Bowie, there are two people in this world – those who love him and those who want to f**k him.” Regardless of to which category you may belong, you are sure to find this to be a show of much flamboyance and a whole lot of fun, testament to fierce fandom of the cult of Bowie.
“BOWIE Unzipped” is a celebration of the things that make Bowie one of the major figures in popular music – his androgynous sexuality, musical chameleonry and pop culture rebellion; it is all there. And when the crowd is on its feet dancing and nostalgically singing along to ‘Rebel, Rebel’, Bowie’s farewell to the glam movement that he had helped pioneer, the atmosphere is of pure, infectious joy, for as the song declares, “You love bands when they’re playing hard.” So put on your red shoes, explore beyond the stardust and bring some Bowie back into your life.
Photo c/o – http://www.brisbanepowerhouse.org