Local Current Blog

Twin Cities all-stars plan theatrical tribute to David Bowie at the Ordway

Julius Collins performs at the Memorial Street Party outside First Avenue in Minneapolis, April 22, 2017. (Nate Ryan/MPR)

The Ordway and Collins Live are teaming up to present “We Can Be Heroes: The David Bowie Tribute Show” on Sept. 8. The concert features a star-studded line-up of local musicians, including Julius Collins, Ryan Smith (Soul Asylum), Michael Bland (New Power Generation) and more. The show has been designed as a multimedia tribute to celebrate an icon whose artistic talent transcended more than just his music.

According to Collins, one of the masterminds behind the tribute, the inspiration behind the creating the show was to recognize the loss of an individual who truly made an impact on the world with his art. “When he died, it was a pretty profound moment in history and there was a kind of global impact that was resonating even here in Minnesota,” Collins explained. “Bowie was more than just a performing or recording artist. He was a legitimate icon.”

C0llins and his collaborators intend the show to illustrate this multifaceted element of Bowie’s genius, which means the show is more than just about the music. One way that the tribute is showcasing the other side of his art is through the incorporation of fashion inspired by Bowie’s striking and often avant-garde personal expression.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that music isn’t an integral part of the show. “I think anytime you do any kind of tribute show, there are going to be some expectations about what music people will expect to hear,” Collins said. “There’s no doubt you’ll get ‘Young Americans’ and you’ll get ‘Fame’ and you’ll get a lot of those songs, but for me, when I build a show I build it thinking about the ultimate experience in the end.”

Performers involved include guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker (the Suburbs, Greazy Meal), keyboardists Cory Eischen (Sleep Study), Katie Gearty (Hookers n’ Blow), Steve Price (Rex Daisy, the Suburbs), and Rachel Holder (the Wolverines).  Collins (Greazy Meal, Sons of Almighty) will be lending his dynamic vocal talent, with Prince’s longtime drummer Bland providing the musical direction for the show.

Collins and Bland — as well as Ylvisaker and Eischen — were a part of the David Bowie tribute that took place in February 2016 at the Parkway Theater, two weeks after Bowie’s death. This 2016 tribute also boasted a talented local line-up, including Soul Asylum founder David Pirner. According to Collins, the Ordway performance will be similar to its predecessor, but with different artists, a different venue, and some other changes. With the addition of special guest actors and singers Ann Michels and Erin Schwab, there will also be a theatrical element incorporated into this tribute.

Both Collins and Bland have also been involved in several Prince tributes together, including the NPG’s first “This Thing Called Life” tribute in 2016, the Memorial Street Party outside First Avenue in April, and the recent three-night tribute at the Fine Line Music Cafe in June. Both have also spent time working with Prince — Bland as drummer for the NPG and Collins having been managed by Prince.

When asked if he considered Bowie and Prince similar in any respect, Collins said, “Oh I most certainly do. In fact, I would dare say that when you think about artists that transcend music, people of different races, style, and iconic fashion, I think Prince and Bowie — to me — are on a level all by themselves, and I do mean those two.”

He went on to add that both Bowie and Prince were not afraid to experiment, grow, and change as artists. “You don’t just think musically with those two artists,” Collins explained. “You think style, you think edgy, you think courage, and you think weird sometimes, but in the end you think, wow, man, these people really were true artists.”

Surprisingly, the man behind this thoughtful tribute didn’t become a fan until after Bowie’s death, when he decided to take an extensive dive into the life and music of the British icon.

“The thing that I loved the most, I think, resonated most with me was: he was comfortable in his own skin,” Collins said. “All of his incarnations, he was still comfortable with who he was because it was who he was. I think that really resonated with me as a person who understands that changing is part of being an artists and in the end you have to be comfortable with that change, otherwise that’s not you.”

Tickets for “We Can Be Heroes” on Sept. 8 can be purchased in-person at the Ordway ticket office or online.

Lillian Speakman is a recent graduate from Hamline University.