Dylan Howe live at King’s Place. 29 September 2014

Regular visitors may recall that I’ve been taking a look at a new recording each month. In late July my attention turned to Dylan Howe’s interesting reinvestigations of David Bowie’s late 1970’s Berlin instrumental tracks. You can read about Subterranean: New Designs On Bowies Berlin here. To summarise, I enjoyed the album massively.

I was delighted to discover that Howe intended to play this set live in its entirety on a UK tour. Even better, Andy Sheppard would be be taking care of saxophone duties.

The London gig was in King’s Cross at the newish King’s Place concert halls. A stylish setting amidst London’s latest district of architectural rejuvination and, somehow an apt place to hear Howe’s respectful jazz take on David Bowie and Eno’s compositions.

The band seemed very comfortable together and presented us with a faithful live reproduction of the recorded set. This was ideal and probably what most audiences would hope to hear at this stage, as there will be time enough for these arrangements to offer soloing space, if that is what Dylan Howe would eventually like to do with them. What we’ve currently got is a solid and, at times, very beautiful rendition of the recording and something that Howe deserves to be very proud of. However, there is still ample space for the live versions to develop to fully realise and release Howe’s aspiration of ‘John Coltrane meets David Bowie, recorded in outer space’.

Old School synthesiser passages are at the heart of many of these pieces and they were deftly delivered by Steve Lodder. Dave Whitford’s double bass added its deep natural-sounding gravitas, while Ross Stanley’s piano playing was as polished as the resident Steinway grand demanded. Dylan Howe’s drumming was subtle and fascinating to watch and hear. Andy Sheppard’s soprano on the the third number (All Saints, unless I’m mistaken) was my personal highlight amidst a very strong performance.

Bowie has, himself, given Dylan Howe’s album the thumbs up and it’s great to see the set and the tour gathering very positive reviews. As somebody who initially struggled with the instrumental side of Low, I never thought I would be still listening to and enjoying these pieces over 25 years later.

Congratulations to all involved with this interesting and imaginative musical resetting of these jewels. This performance deserves and will receive a rating of 9/10 on the downwithit.info live music index. As for me, to steal from and alter a Bowie title (cos, after all, Bowie is a self-declared magpie) I’ll continue to Watch This Man. Thanks Dylan.

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