Sheffield City Hall was the last stop on the first tour of this very special tribute to Bowie. Part rock concert, part theatrical performance, the show includes stunning animations and film of interviews and Bowie performances.

Alex Thomas takes on the role of Bowie through the 1970s and into the early 1980s. Wisely he adopts some aspects of his hero’s persona through his stage outfits, but doesn’t attempt to imitate the style chameleon that Bowie was throughout his life. Innovative, adventurous, constantly pushing boundaries both musically and in the way he presented himself to the world, Bowie would be impossible to pin down. There’s bound to be a biopic one day and someone will be challenged to attempt it.

The Live on Mars show concentrates on the music. A group of excellent and experienced musicians accompany Alex Thomas, and his voice does justice to the songs.
The concert was moved from the main City Hall stage to the ballroom downstairs, a space that reminded me of the venues where I had seen Bowie live in 1972. It felt a more intimate space for the performance that unfolded, and by the end of the night, when the audience was on their feet dancing, it really worked.

Opening with Alex in a pale blue suit, with swept back hair, there’s enough of a hint of Bowie to create a theatrical experience.

‘The Man Who Fell to Earth' began proceedings. Followed by ‘Space Oddity’, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘Five Years’,‘Starman’, and ‘Life on Mars’, we were soon drawn into the timeless world of Bowie. ‘Sound and Vision’ and ‘Fame’ brought a change of outfit, more reminiscent of the ‘Low’ image. Next up was ‘Golden Years’. Projections and film of Bowie accompanied the music, adding to the immersive experience. ‘Young Americans’ included Alex Thomas on saxophone, and film footage of American adverts and protest marches gave it an extra dimension.

After the interval the set continued to move back and forth through the 1970s, resisting a chronological approach to Bowie’s music. ‘Rebel Rebel’ was followed by ‘Breaking Glass’. ‘Moonage Daydream’ included a reference to that Mick Ronson moment when he and Bowie embraced on Top of the Pops. How times have changed. ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Fashion’ and ‘Jean Genie’ got people up and dancing. ‘Changes’ was accompanied by a great animation, showing just what a style setter Bowie was. Then a leap into the 1980s for ‘Modern Love’, before we all got to our feet for ‘Let’s Dance’, quickly followed by a great version of ‘Suffragette City’.The set finished with ‘Heroes’, particularly poignant. ‘All the Young Dudes’ was the first encore and all the once young dudes in the audience loved it. Finally the band closed with Bowie’s version of the Stones’ classic ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’.

Bowie never stopped being a remarkable artist, musician and performer. There’s a huge catalogue of material to be brought to life by playing it live to a concert audience in this way. This show covers highlights of just over a decade of his work and it is a treat for any Bowie fan to recall just how amazing he was.

The band come from the same management team as Brit Floyd and Rumours of Fleetwood Mac. There is a professionalism in the way the show is presented and performed that reflects the high standards you would expect from such a team. It was obvious that the musicians enjoyed being part of this tribute to Bowie, especially as the audience began to respond with real enthusiasm.

I’m one of the lucky ones, and there were a few people I talked to who like me had seen Bowie live in their younger days. I do struggle with tribute acts. For me it was the unpredictability of hugely talented musicians that was part of the excitement of a live performance. There can be no unpredictability when you are recreating someone else’s music. It can’t even be a reinterpretation when you are in a tribute band. I couldn’t help comparing this experience to John Cale’s adventurous and unpredictable approach to Velvet Underground and Nico Revisited in Liverpool recently, when guest artists were encouraged to make those classic songs their own.

Live on Mars will be touring again in the autumn and I’m certain that as a show it will grow in popularity. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience Bowie’s music live and in concert. Definitely one for the fans.













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