By MIKE CHAIKEN
Tony Vincent seemed destined to be part of a musical tribute to David Bowie.
Vincent performs with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra on Friday night in “The Music of David Bowie.”
Vincent’s career found him singing with Queen (before Queen Elizabeth, no less) and performing in Queen’s rock opera “We Will Rock You.”
Queen, you see, arose from the same British glam rock scene as Bowie. The two acts also teamed up to perform the hit, “Under Pressure.”
Vincent had the lead role of St. Jimmy in the rock opera based on Green Day’s album, “American Idiot.” Some could argue there would be no rock operas without Bowie’s finetuning of the form on his album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.”
Vincent played the role of “Judas” in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Bowie played the role of Pontius Pilate in the film “The Last Temptation of Christ.”
However, as Vincent explained it, Bowie’s presence goes even deeper than those career and cultural coincidences.
“He was a big influence on me as an artist,” said Vincent, who has pursued his own career as a vocalist and a songwriter.
“(Growing up) I was the biggest Anglophile on Manhattan Island,” said Vincent, who said he has long drawn from the English sound.
What he enjoys about the British sound, he said, is that “overtone of melancholia.” Even in British pop music, said Vincent, there was a sense of a “tortured soul” inside, “something dark.”
When the opportunity came to be part of the Bowie tribute, Vincent said, he saw it as “opportunity to revisit the material I grew up with… and rekindle a fire in my gut.”
Besides Bowie’s music, Vincent said he appreciates Bowie as an artist. He said Bowie had a great impact on popular culture. “He liberated a lot of people who felt a little confined… In his lifestyle, he gave people the license to be authentic.”
Bowie reached an iconic status—and survived long after the glam rock movement that gave him birth faded into history books, said Vincent, “because he always wanted to challenge himself… He was never the same.”
The glam rock movement, said Vincent, “never evolved.” But with Bowie, said Vincent, “you never knew what he would do next.”
Even on his final album before he passed away in January, “Black Star,” Vincent said Bowie surprised everyone by recording with some of the best jazz musicians today. “It was a complete departure.”
And, said Vincent, Bowie consistently proved that he was a great pop songwriter. “He crafted great melodies,” said Vincent. Songs like “Let’s Dance” and “Under Pressure” were iconic.
“He was an artist to the core who understood how to be commercial,” said Vincent.
When Vincent performs the music of Bowie this Friday night, he will not try to become David Bowie.
“I’d be doing the music an injustice if I emulated him,” said Bowie.
Instead Vincent performs the music as himself. Mind you, said Vincent, he was that big Anglophile. When he learned to sing, he picked up those British inflections. So, he naturally has that English sound.
Vincent will be accompanied by a band as well as the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Vincent said the orchestra takes these “beautifully epic sounds” of Bowie’s music and “makes it more grand.”
“I cannot tell you how gratefully I am to sing songs like, ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Life on Mars’ to close the show.”
“Those are really, epic, out of world (songs),” said Vincent, who also was a contestant on “The Voice.”
Audiences will this HSO performance, said Vincent, because “we’re reviving the best pop and rock songs ever written.”
And, he said, “We are celebrating an artist’s life.”
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Talcott Mountain Music Festival presents “The Music of David Bowie” on Friday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. The event is held rain or shine at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, Simsbury.
Adult single lawn tickets are $30 at the gate.
For more information, visit www.hartfordsymphony.org or call (860)987-5900.