The elegant, loose, and intricate piano work of Mike Garson had always been a vital component to some of the late David Bowie’s greatest musical moments. From the uneasy and doomed doting in Lady Grinning Soul, so ideally communicated through the melodious clinking and clattering of keys that flutter underfoot until finally spilling outwards, to the sudden bursts of feeling evoked in the brooding and underappreciated The Motel, to the cool, plaintive anger of Bring Me The Disco King, Garson’s piano has served, continuously, as an emotional guiding point for Bowie’s songs and albums. At its most profound, each stroke of Garson’s piano captured the sentiments stewing underneath each song, even when the surface – Bowie’s enigmatic words, vocals, or all the other instruments inside the piece – expressed otherwise; almost acting as a musical subconscious to each work, always present but not in constant need to put itself on display, only emerging when the circumstance called for it, needed it.
Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Garson’s musical tribute to the late musician not only manages to capture his deep understanding of the undercurrents of Bowie’s music, but also evokes the great rift that his absence has left behind. Tribute To David, #2 was improvised live during a Periscrope performance in memory of Bowie. It is, in some sense, a continuation of Tribute To David, performed originally for Garson’s The Bowie Variations in 2011. However, while the earlier song courses peacefully through time and space, eliciting joy and tranquility, its sequel rages with conflicting emotions, moving back and forth in search of the former’s repose, but never quite managing to find it.
It begins with a questioning burst only to calm down momentarily before bursting outwards again, its feverish state escalating as memories are evoked, answers are scoured for, until, eventually, the absence felt reveals itself in the final moments of the song when the piano, beat from its own frenzied emotions, lulls itself toward a world-weary acceptance.
Only Garson could translate musically – and so beautifully – the shock felt upon and after the announcement of Bowie’s death.
Listen to both Tribute To David and Tribute To David #2 below:
Garson also played with Bowie on what marked one of the artist’s final live performances in 2005’s Fashion Rocks event. Here is Life on Mars? from that event: