Entertainment & Arts

David Bowie producer Tony Visconti performs tribute concert

Rock band Holy Holy Image copyright Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press / AP
Image caption Visconti (right) played a set packed with Bowie's biggest hits with his band Holy Holy

David Bowie's long-time producer Tony Visconti has celebrated the musician's life at a tribute concert in Canada.

About 900 people packed into Toronto's Opera House on Tuesday to pay tribute to the pop star, who died on Sunday.

They heard the band Holy Holy, featuring Visconti on bass and former Bowie cohort Woody Woodmansey on drums.

"There is no better way to work through grief (than) through music," Visconti told the audience, before playing a selection of Bowie's biggest hits.

They also performed the 1970 album The Man Who Sold The World in its entirety.

"This is some of the best music that's ever been written," said Visconti - who was Bowie's producer throughout his career, starting with the 1969 album Space Oddity right up to his swansong Blackstar, which was released last week.

Image copyright Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press / AP
Image caption Fans adopted Bowie's "lightning bolt" make-up, as seen on the Aladdin Sane album cover

Before the show, Visconti told fans that Monday, when he had learned of Bowie's death, had been one of the worst days of his life.

"We actually had to talk about whether we were going to perform more on this tour," he said.

"[But] music is magic. It's better than any pill to take, It's better than any drug."

The sold-out crowd signed a book of condolence before the show; while many had painted a lightning bolt across their face, mimicking the cover of Bowie's 1973 album Aladdin Sane.

"This is some celebration," said Visconti later.

'I wept'

Tuesday night also saw the first performance of Bowie's stage musical Lazarus since his death.

Cast members did not acknowledge the star's absence or make any changes to the show - although a video screen in the lobby showed a photo of the musician with the words "In Memoriam, 1947-2016."

But many fans who had bought tickets expecting to celebrate Bowie's music found themselves mourning his life instead.

Image copyright Jan Versweyveld
Image caption Lazarus, which stars Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall, features 18 of Bowie's songs

"It was incredible. I wept a lot," said Evan Schwartz, a 20-year-old student from Stanford, Connecticut. "It was beautiful."

Bowie co-wrote Lazarus with Irish playwright Enda Walsh, the award-winning writer of Once. It was conceived as a sequel to the 1970 movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, in which Bowie had the starring role, and features many of his biggest hits, including Changes, Life on Mars and Heroes, as well as tracks from his recent album.

The star's involvement was the main draw for Roberta Bethencourt, who attended Tuesday's performance.

"I used to go to the library and when other kids were getting books, I was getting Space Oddity and bringing it home and playing it over and over again," she said.

"I had no idea what an impact he had on so many people. I loved him because he was so different and unique."

The producer of Lazarus, Robert Fox, told the Telegraph the musical will transfer to London "in the fullness of time", giving British fans the chance to see one of Bowie's final works.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Bowie was one of the most influential pop musicians to emerge from the UK

Bowie's death was announced in a statement on Monday, which said he "died peacefully, surrounded by his family" after an "18-month battle with cancer".

As yet there has been no official confirmation of the type of cancer Bowie had.

But Ivo van Hove, who directs the New York production of Lazarus, told Dutch public radio broadcaster NOS that he had suffered from liver cancer.

Tributes have continued to be paid by fellow musicians and contemporaries.

Mick Jagger, who recorded a cover of Dancing in the Street with Bowie in 1985, said: "David was always an inspiration to me and a true original.

"He was wonderfully shameless in his work. We had so many good times together... He was my friend. I will never forget him.''

Film director Cameron Crowe, who worked as a music journalist in the 1970s, recalled the six months he spent with Bowie in an essay for The Hollywood Reporter.

"[He] was the most generous and entertaining interview subject I'd ever met," said the film-maker, whose credits include Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.

"Nothing was off-limits. When he asked to meet you, it was rarely casual. You would be ushered into the room where he was waiting, and the artist would be perfectly positioned, his head cocked at the perfect angle to catch the light. It was not an affectation. He naturally staged himself, only to break out of such an iconic pose with a crackling smile and jaunty warmth."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fans continue to leave tributes outside Bowie's home in New York

Annie Lennox added: "At the loss of someone who has impacted and influenced your life, you can hardly begin to measure the shape of what's left behind. Our personal and collective inner landscape has shifted and we're trying to come to terms with it."

No funeral details have yet been announced for the musician, but a memorial concert is planned for New York's Carnegie Hall in March.

The Brit Awards will also pay tribute to the "visionary and ground-breaking" artist at next month's ceremony.

Brits chairman Max Lousada said the "extraordinary life and work" of "one of our greatest icons" would be honoured at the show, at London's O2 arena, on 24 February.

Watch a special tribute programme David Bowie: Sound and Vision on the BBC iPlayer

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