5 Memorable Moments from the David Bowie Tribute Concert at Radio City Music Hall

Two months ago a concert of David Bowie’s music was announced – Famous fans would sing Bowie’s songs at Carnegie Hall in New York City in March. Club owner Michael Dorf had intended the show – the tickets for which would raise money for arts education – as a tribute to a living legend. But the day of the announcement, Bowie died at age 69 and the concert was quickly recast as a celebration of a musical life cut short. The timing, said Dorf, of City Winery, led to an outpouring of “fellow artists wanting to show their respect and adoration for his deep repertoire – our phones were going off the hook.”

Dorf added a second show, which took place April 1 at Radio City Music Hall. The two nights’ eclectic lineups proved the reach of Bowie’s celebrity fandom: rock, pop, indie, jazz and classical stars (plus a children’s choir) interpreted songs from a five-decade career. Read on for five high points from Friday’s show.

Perry Farrell, “Rebel Rebel”

5 Memorable Moments from the David Bowie Tribute Concert at Radio City Music Hall| David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, Wayne Coyne

Perry Farrell

Evan Agostini / Invision / AP

Many of the evening’s performers were out to prove their Bowie credentials by reaching deep into the star’s catalog – Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio ably delivered “The Bewlay Brothers,” a 1971 song Bowie himself didn’t perform live until 2002. But Farrell, the former Jane’s Addiction singer known for organizing the Lollapalooza festivals, knows how to please a crowd and got fans out of their plush seats for a faithful and rousing rendition of the anthemic ode to a lovable hot tramp.

The Flaming Lips, “Life on Mars”

5 Memorable Moments from the David Bowie Tribute Concert at Radio City Music Hall| David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne

Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

This soaring, wistful tune has in two-months time become a reverent go-to for tributes to the late star, from Lorde at the Brit Awards to a recent episode of Girls”, which featured a cover by Norwegian teen Aurora. But here singer Wayne Coyne instead paid homage to Bowie’s fondness for spectacle by performing in a long coat of flashing colored lights while perched on the shoulders of a man in what looked like a Chewbacca costume and calmly belting about “the freakiest show.”

Blondie, “Heroes”

5 Memorable Moments from the David Bowie Tribute Concert at Radio City Music Hall| David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, Wayne Coyne

Debbie Harry

Evan Agostini / Invision / AP

“I, I will be Queen,” sang Debbie Harry, whose band got a jumpstart when they joined a tour with Bowie and Iggy Pop decades earlier. With an interpretation that was admiring and still fun, she was among those with a clear and personal link to the man they were honoring. Others included Sean Lennon, who performed “Quicksand” with J. Mascis and has said Bowie was a father figure, and the house band lead by longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti.

Donny McCaslin Group, “Lazarus”

5 Memorable Moments from the David Bowie Tribute Concert at Radio City Music Hall| David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, Wayne Coyne

Donny McCaslin

Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

The jazz combo that Bowie tapped for his final album, Blackstar, offered an impassioned instrumental of the song that presaged his death. With no one singing “Look up here/I’m in Heaven” Bowie’s absence was even more apparent.

Michael Stipe with Karen Elson, “Ashes to Ashes”

A stunning duet, and heartfelt companion piece to the REM singer’s much-viewed Tonight Show performance of “The Man Who Sold the World.” Stipe was among the very few who ventured to speak from the stage, asking the crowd, “Why are we here?” And answered his own question: “It’s a celebration.”

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