Trust Duffophiles that, on these Ziggy nights, at the Sydney Opera House, all minds will explode in unison by the highest blasts of Bowie art. Read about this September 2012 show and buy tickets here at the Sydney Opera House site. “Mind-blowing”, “all killers, no fillers” are words used to describe the Ziggy Shows thus far by Duff and associates.
The show has evolved from what Duff was doing in the 1990s, and touring in one-man form in NSW in the 2000s; you could have been tragically flicking, like me, through a Wyong newspaper, one day in about 2006, and come upon a photo and story re Duff covering Bowie and Sinatra songs, in costume, at the local footy club. There was a residency at Sydney’s The Vanguard in 2009, where the show came in four themes, a different one each weekend of October.
A bigger show, focussed on Bowie alone, integrating the best of these experiments, booked out Sydney’s State Theatre in 2010, when Duff was joined by Steve Balbi, Brydon Stace and Iota, ahead of a band of good repute. With reliable music and exciting vocal talents, and dance-steps, the show came in ever cooler costume changes across switches from arresting solos to all-out rock and funk band-heavy numbers.
Then there was the Enmore Theatre show: now a rock concert crafted with Duff, Balbi, Paul Capsis and Christa Hughes as the keys to the drama, each putting their own stamp on the show in sets of one or two solo leads of a brassy rock band. “Wild is the wind” by Paul Capsis any one? “Suffragette City” by Christa Hughes any one? And who do you think took the Mercury part in the fierce Duff-led “Under Pressure”?
Duff, Balbi and Stace next took the show to the Adelaide Festival this June, and now it’s onto the Opera House this September. But how has the show evolved? Where will Duff be when he’s supposed to be at the Sydney Opera House, for fruck’s sake, before a gaping crowd, all of us gapers on his side? “It will surely be beyond evolution” said an old Messiah, coming back for a tick.
What’s extra great about all these Bowie shows, and Duff’s recorded covers of Bowie, is that there’s never an effort to just mimic Bowie. Everyone, including we the audience, is in on the game – but we know the artists are referencing. It’s how they reference that matters, what we especially enjoy, seeing our glam needs nicely exploited by genuine talent.
Duff is “job ready” to put on a show at the Opera House, it’s an old stomping ground of his. Sydney gets prized again, this September 2012, with another Duff experience upon one of the heighest artistic stages of all ages. It’s like hearing the songs of Osiris off the top of the Sphinx. But that’s enough verbal filigree for now, enough emotional pornography for you – but how this news doth swell the Duffophile’s bosom with a hearty pride of passion.
When you have trouble communicating to yourself over a cup of coffee, with only a blank piece of paper in front of you – you just have to think of these people – like Duff, Balbi and Stace – who express themselves and communicate to us for a living, who have the courage to become significant in other people’s minds, day by day. There are thugs in the Cross who, in spite of their fists and barbs, communicate zero passion. On the other hand, there’s an essential Duff-Balbi-Stace Ziggy show to see.
And so the show has ended, the crowds dissipated under Duffological spell, his Mesmeric gestures, his capture and alarm of the crowd, from his now signature jog to “Let’s Dance” and his first steps into the space before us, his pean to the “Young Americano” and all that’s recalled by so many reviewers more articulate than me as a “loss for words,” “engrossing” … describing Duff’s very presence on stage, let alone his mastery of music and gift of song. On that point, no golden words are spent or rare enough. The second set appearance of Duff upped the spectacle – with bright Bowie-bedecked leotard (or some glam-Nipon smattering upon it), dark and shimmering stockings, high white boots, curt curled-back platinum hair, a Warholian vision; thankfully Duff did little more in movement than give us a slow slide across the stage, fully aware of his potential energy and the bomb he could unfurl. We were all especially aghast by Track 3: his gift of Bowie’s “Wild is the Wind” – and thereupon I spare my words and must truncate the superlatives for now …
and remark, in turn, on Steve Balbi. Balbi channels and accentuates the essential Ziggy themes of the mortal god, rock shaman, sacrificed messiah, romantic suicide-poet, blind Baptist preacher, from Morrison to Morrissey, a salve to common human weaknesses and wretchedness, absorbing the natural ills and turmoils of each member of the mob, giving licence to their right to party, stirring them into soul-healing ecstasy, sans any artifice of religiosity. At one point, at the end of a song, Balbi mentioned, or questioned, the greatness of being alive – and that was precisely what was on my thoughts and doubtlessly those of others at that time – the basic blessedness of being sensate, and sorry for the dead souls who could not be party to the magnificence of our present party. Balbi crafts iconics in his show before us – including moments with a long-stemmed rose, gifted to a rollicking audience member, and a certain kiss on the butt of Duff – quoting that rock-iconic oral gesture of Bowie upon Ronno. Balbi also offered the most startling lighting effect of the night – among several – what with his suit stripped off a mirror-ball.
Brydon Stace was the Young Americano Davido – funky, full of flair – right down to the hem of his pants – actually, a suit that some Duffologists suspect came out of the Duff closet itself. Stace also offered – with Duff stoking on the side – all the wails that earthlings could imagine a human voice to utter in taking the Freddie Mercury part in “Under Pressure”. Plain listening became all the more hallucinogenic one moment after the other, thanks to Stace punching powerfully through the pitches of this song.
It was also a boon to see some serious merchandising outside in the hall. Did you get the Ziggy Show badge, the Ziggy Show poster, Duff’s Fragile Spaceman CD (includes a pretty “Ziggy Stardust”), the Ziggy Show T-shirt, the Duff/Wilson Big Band CD – and sign the email list? I did – no losers here. Thanks, it seems, to EmpireTouring, for getting this side of the act together.
There are some youtubes of the event to be seen, like this Wild is the Wind, with the band in their Duffo-naut outfits straight from NASA.
There’s perhaps never been a time like this one of ours today when every Tom, Dick and Sally is trying to be a “genuine artist”. There are university courses you can do with government support to get you to the “emerging” stage. That ends you up lauded with all the respect we give to well-boiled eggs. The career clincher is on TV shows franchised across the world like hamburgers, where the rent-a-crowd gives you standing ovation for wailing out a note for some five seconds or so, then you smirk and curtsey with faint gratitude before the criticism of mega-super-überstars born yesterday: “I’m proud of all my failures and successes” you stubbornly pronounce to more applause.
A Duff show is essential, more than all television.
Review of the 2012 show at AussieTheatre.com.