Five years ago today, the music world was shaken by the news that pop icon David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69 after an unpublicized battle with liver cancer. In addition to a massive outpouring of condolences and memorials of Bowie in the media (and even a special fireworks display in Sydney), countless musicians paid tribute to the late superstar through their music, covering his catalog in their own live shows. As we remember Bowie today, we take a look back at some of the most memorable live David Bowie tributes from the year of his death.
Less than two weeks after Bowie’s passing, Umphrey’s McGee was scheduled to play a three-night run at the Beacon Theatre. For their January 21st performance, in addition to a tribute to recently-deceased Glenn Frey, the band encored with a pair of Bowie tunes: “Space Oddity” and “Fame”. You can watch footage of Umph’s tribute to the fallen Star Man below:
At 2016’s Electric Forest Festival, hosts The String Cheese Incident used the second set of their second of three performances to pay tribute to Bowie and Prince, who also passed away early in the year. String Cheese opened up their tribute with a cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” before calling on Karl Denson for a run of songs that included Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” and Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” You can watch some of the magic below:
[Video: Tom Heinrich]
At this year’s Mountain Jam, Marco Benevento & Superhuman Happiness put on a full-set Bowie tribute. Gov’t Mule guitarist and festival co-host Warren Haynes joined the band for a rousing rendition of “Rebel, Rebel”, which you can watch below:
[Video: Mountain Jam]
Phish has never been shy about proclaiming Bowie’s influence on their music. In addition to their own classic composition (“David Bowie”) that bears the artist’s name, the band’s cover of “Life On Mars?” is a highly sought-after gem in their live repertoire. In the wake of Bowie’s death, many Phish fans wondered how the band would pay homage to the pop legend. As it turned out, the band had a variety of touching tributes in store during the ensuing year. First, on night one of their two night stand at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Phish debuted “Space Oddity” as an a cappella tune. The impressive, intricate arrangement sees the band recreate both the song’s vocal and instrumental parts (including Trey Anastasio hilariously singing the guitar solos). You can watch the live debut of Phish’s arrangement of “Space Oddity” from Wrigley below:
The a cappella “Space Oddity” became a staple of the band’s live rotation for the rest of the year, being performed four more times after Wrigley. The fourth and most recent of these served as the encore for the band’s 2016 Halloween show, but it was far from the only hat tip to Bowie on 10/31/16. For their traditional “musical costume”, Phish performed David Bowie’s classic album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars in its entirety with help from a string section and backup singers. You can also listen to the full show here.