With the recent deaths of musicians Prince, Merle Haggard, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Glenn Frey and David Bowie, 2016 isn’t short on tribute concerts. Thursday, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra honors Bowie.
It’s the symphonic rock treatment that Windborne Productions has given U2, Queen, The Who, the Rolling Stones and others since its first such concert using the music of Led Zeppelin.
The format isn’t just the orchestra covering Bowie’s songs, explains Windborne founder Brent Havens.
“We have a full band, bass, guitar, singer, drums, keyboards, wrapped by an entire full symphony,” says Havens, who was considering Bowie long before he died.
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“We started looking at his music last June. When he passed away in January we realized we really need to do it, if nothing more than to celebrate his life and his legacy and his entire catalog,” says Havens, who marveled at the sheer size of Bowie’s work.
“His catalog is just massive,” adds Havens, who dove in. “It has multiple genres in it. Different portions of his life, he changed who he was and the music he was doing. It was amazing. It took me forever. He is such a prolific writer.”
Bowie was also an inspiration for the LGBT community, given his adventurous and androgynous persona early on, and like many recent shows in the wake of Orlando’s mass shooting (such as the Lucius show at Visulite last Monday), Thursday’s concert has the potential to unite and console.
“I haven’t thought about that,” says Havens. “I’m not changing anything (about the show) because of what’s happened, but each person will bring their own feelings and emotions and their own issues into their concert. If it can help and be cathartic that would be terrific.”
Havens had written scores for film and television for more than a decade when he was approached with the idea of creating a symphonic Led Zeppelin concert.
“Their idea was to have it just be the orchestra. I wasn’t sure that would be the best way to go about presenting it to the fans. I was afraid it would be cheesy. That it would be a Muzak-y situation,” says Havens. “So I said, let’s get a terrific singer out front and a great band.”
Windborne’s resident vocalist Brody Dolyniuk will take on everything from “Space Oddity” to “China Girl” but isn’t a visual impersonator.
“We try to celebrate the music and who (Bowie) was musically, more than his look. I don’t want it to be that you’re having to compare,” says Havens, who grew up during the classic rock era but was surprisingly (considering his current work) more into jazz fusion.
Havens describes Dolyniuk the same way many described Bowie, whose look and sound evolved with the times.
“He is a huge chameleon,” Havens adds. “He can sound like Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant and sounds a great deal like Bowie.”
Havens may direct a Prince tribute next year – another iconic artist with a massive body of work.
“That’s a difficult one because his estate is in limbo,” he says.
With such broad careers to consider, tackling Bowie or Prince isn’t as easy as Zeppelin’s relatively narrow catalog.
“On all of these shows, but particularly on a show with this large catalog, I’ll hear, ‘Why don’t you do this tune?’ ” he says. “I only have two hours on stage. I could go four hours and still get that question.”
The Music of David Bowie
WHEN: 8 p.m. June 23
WHERE: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.
DETAILS: 704-372-1000; www.carolinatix.org