Fringe Festival 2019 Review: Ambient Orchestra Presents David Bowie’s Blackstar; Maya Beiser/Evan Ziporyn

Who: Ambient Orchestra
Where: Elder Hall at RCC Fringe, University of Adelaide
When: 16th of March

Following on from yesterday’s performance, Ambient Orchestra returned to take on the music of David Bowie, a subject of personal significance to both composer Evan Ziporyn and guest cellist Maya Beiser.

Ambient Orchestra was formed shortly after Bowie’s death inspired Ziporyn to conduct an orchestral performance of Low, reflecting the conductor’s broader interest in the experimental music of 70’s Brian Eno and ambient music in general. Following the positive reception of Low, Ziporyn turned to making Blackstar ‘their own’; Bowie’s final album lends itself naturally to an orchestral interpretation, and gives audiences a chance to hear it performed live.

Beiser lead the orchestra throughout, turning the album in a cello concerto (cellos having the same vocal range as Bowie himself). Highlights included the title track, ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore, and I Can’t Give Everything Away. The performance revealed how lead vocals and the lead guitar intertwined, and, when stripped of their varied instrumentation and production the album coheres almost like a musical (and the same could be said for a lot of Bowie’s albums). Standout tracks like Lazarus, and Sue (In A Season Of Crime), on the other hand sounded subdued for the same reasons, blending in better with the suite at the expense of their signature riffs.

But they didn’t play ‘Let’s Dance’! The performance then closed with a renditions of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and a quick medley of greatest hits, which was unexpected in context but inevitable, and enjoyable.

4/5 stars
-Tin Do

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