Perth Salute to David Bowie




Ziggy played guitar. And flute, and violin, and viola… Who knew that the next best thing to a David Bowie concert – no longer possible, sadly – would be to hear his music performed live by the Perth Symphony Orchestra?

But there we were, on a wintry Thursday night, on our feet with the crowd, swaying to a Let’s Dance rendition backed by soaring violins, violas and wind instruments.

It was a fitting encore to a rousing show, encapsulating 50 years of Bowie hits, (including Space Oddity, Under Pressure, Life On Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Ziggy Stardust ) infused with the energy of local classical musicians.

Perth singers Addison Axe and Steve Hensby, clad in androgynous costumes, quickly found their stride interacting well with the orchestra, conducted by Elise Chong, and wowed us with their vocal range.

Bowie would have approved.

I can’t remember not knowing the music of this inspiring Brit, who died four years ago, aged 69.

When I was a kid, my brother David was always playing cutting edge Bowie songs on his cassette tape in the next room.


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Then when I was a cadet journalist at the Daily News, I actually got to clap eyes on this mysterious and worldly fellow. I went to his press conference when he came to Perth in the early 80s. What an impossibly cool and colourful individual, with those glittering multi-coloured eyes and cutting-edge clobber. Discount Software from

I remember asking him a question at the same time as an older guy. I halted, and the man kept asking – but Bowie turned to me, pointed, and said “I think youwere first.” Yes! (I can’t remember what I asked him.)

Decades later, I would again attend a packed press conference in Sydney when he back was in Australia for some concerts. He looked as elegant and handsome as ever, with the same grounded, courteous manner .

So it came as no surprise during the concert Stardust: The Music of David Bowie, to hear another first-hand report about what a likeable fellow Bowie was.



I’ll get to that in a minute.

First though, it was funny to overhear, just before the concert, at the HBF Stadium, had begun, a woman seated near me saying she wasn’t really familiar with Bowie songs, “my parents were too young to have his albums. They were into late 80s music.” (Jeez, are your faithful Starfish scribes that old, that this adult’s PARENTS were too young to know the songs we can’t remember notknowing?)

Ah time, he flexes like a whore, Bowie once sang.

And yet, from the moment he burst forth with Space Oddity in 1969, just days before man landed on the moon, for decades to follow, his music was amongst us.

HIs influence on other performers, including Velvet Underground, Nirvana, Oasis, Moby, Lady Gaga, was profound.


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Taking into account that some of its audience hadn’t grown up listening to Bowie, the performers peppered their performances with little tidbits about him.

He’d had 25 hit records and sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

In 1972, he proclaimed he was gay (later retreating back into heterosexuality) and helped inspired more tolerance to those pursuing that path.

His final song, Lazarus, was released on December 17, 2015, three days before his death from cancer.

Addison Axe told us Perth woman Annie Stainer had written in to the PSO to say she used to dance with Bowie in the 1970s.

She’d sent in this picture of her in London with him, reminiscing what a “gentleman” he was and adding that she would always be grateful to have danced “alongside this beautiful man.”


Annie’s picture dancing with Bowie


The Perth Symphony Orchestra, whose members include top musicians and rising talent from WAAPA and UWA, was founded in November 2011, with a mission “Music for everyone.”

The orchestra prides itself on performing contemporary and classical music alike, in venues not traditionally associated with classical music, including sheds, warehouses, even aeroplane hangars.

We look forward to the PSO’s  next show.





3 thoughts on “Perth Salute to David Bowie

  1. A really fabulous performance by the PSO, conductor and soloists. I reckon DB would have been proud of this amazing take on his great song book!

  2. So sorry I missed this. Loved Bowie. He is so missed. Glad you enjoyed it and no surprise that you did. He was and forever will be the ‘star man’. Best, BC.

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