Last night we saw the final night of the homecoming of The Spiders from Mars in Hull City Hall. Bowie drummer Woody Woodmansey with producer/bassist Tony Visconti, Heaven 17’s Glen Gregory on lead vocals Visconti’s daughter Jessica Lee Morgan on 12-string guitar, tenor sax and vocals, James Stevenson and Paul Cudderford on lead guitars, Heaven 17’s Berenice Scott on backing vocals.
Bowie’s music in the early 1970s was fuelled by musicians from Hull (almost pure coincidence but he had a Yorkshire Dad and a Lancastrian mother). The core Spiders from Mars band of Woodmansey on drums, Trevor Bolder on bass and, of course, Mick Ronson on guitar were the foundations of Bowie’s glam rock period. This homecoming featured a supergroup (Woody being the only surviving member of the essence of the Spiders) of internationally renowned musicians. As Sheffield-born Gregory pointed out during the show, Woody and Tony (the TV of All the Young Dudes lyric) are the real stars, the others are but fans, like the audience in the sold out theatre.
I didn’t have a proper camera with me nor “pit” access in this Yorkshire city of culture, so I got just a few painterly snaps from our vantage point in the gods. Gregory was charismatic and clearly enjoying himself, eternally grateful to have been given the opportunity to sing Bowie and to perform the complete Ziggy Stardust album (the first time ever from start to finish) and so many of the classic Bowie from that period.
Scott was wonderful and understated on keys, giving a few knowing nods to the flourishes of the original songs. Stevenson and Cudderford rocked out, posturing and knee bending in that classic and timeless manner of all Les Paul bearing guitarists of the era. They vyed and dualled from stage left and right for pole position as having the bendiest strings and the biggest sustain (astonishing in heroes and brilliantly tight in harmonies throughout, but loud and heavy when Ziggy demanded it). They’re both famous in their own right, of course Cudderford having performed with Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof etc and Stevenson with The Alarm, Chelsea, Scott Walker, Gen X, The Cult).
Morgan too was astonishing on 12-string and sax (as she, her brother Morgan Visconti and bass-playing partner had been as support act for the show).
Visconti himself, the original Bowie hero was deepest energy from the off, you have to hope you’ve still got the chops like that by the time you reach your seventies. And, of course, Woodmansey, from the very first stick-to-skin beat to the sticks in the air at the end, was a powerhouse as only those rock steady rock drummers of his generation seem to be. Hull deserved this and the audience gave the troupe the audience it deserved.
There are still plenty of gigs to come, not sure which are sold out, but you can find out here.