I really wasn't aware of the deep North \ South divide until I attempted to get Londoners from the north of the city to make the trip across the river for a gig. Sure they'd made it as far as the Royal Festival Hall, some had tales of the muddy swamps of Brixton but this was pure madness. Even the mention of the name 'Streatham' drew puzzled looks, scratched heads and questions about whether it was on the Central Line.
We 'out-of-towners' are made of sterner stuff and I was more than prepared to make the journey to the Hideaway club tucked round the back of Streatham's main drag to hear one of the greatest voices this country ever produced perform the songs of arguably our greatest living songwriter, Dame David Bowie.
The club is indeed a little gem, set out in cabaret style with much gnashing of teeth and gobbling of grub. The sound in the place was absolutely perfect, well balanced and clear. After stomachs were sated and plates cleared away the show began with a suitably jazz instrumental arrangement of 'Ashes To Ashes' with just a hint of 'This Is Not America' during the coda.
In a snappy turquoise suit (a tip of that hat to the one Bowie wore at the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 1992?) with a black boa draped round his neck David McAlmont swings into a funky 'What's That Man', his entrance and performance raising the energy levels. 'Starman' started sedately before the band kicked into a rock n roll groove. This was no mere 'tribute' night with the fresh arrangements and playful phrasing casting fresh light on old favourites.
David had the perfect vocal foil in Sam Obernik, matching him in stage presence and so swishy in her satin and tat. Her take on the iconic 'Life On Mars' bought to mind what the tune would have been like if Edith Piaf had given it the full torch song treatment. The pair complemented each other superbly particularly on the flamenco tinged 'The Man Who Sold The World with the familiar guitar line taken by accordion sounds. If Prince hasn't covered 'The Jean Genie' then this band have the sound down already, a funky soul number rather than a blues stomp.
I had suggested to David on that there Twitter (@davidmcalmont) that he should include 'Lady Grinning Soul' as part of the show because I could instantly see him singing it in my mind's eye - for me Bowie on that track just sounds like Mr McAlmont rather than the other way around. Apparently i wasn't the only one who requested this and he did not disappoint - he absolutely nailed it. Sashaying around the tables, feather boa unfurled it retained that unique atmosphere that sets it apart from Bowie's other material. Just magic.
Sam brings a little of an Eartha Kitt vibe (not rhyming slang) to a wistful 'Kooks' and then performs a devastating 'Wild Is The Wind' teasing out its longing and desperation to dramatic effect. real "hear a pin drop" stuff. They appear to be having a ball and play wonderfully off each other in 'Young Americans' before a joyful encore of 'Modern Love' closes the night.
Joyful, passionate and adventurous are the words I would use to describe the experience and its always great to discover a new venue that is prepared to put on events like this. If this happens again I urge you to go whether it's Bowie or not as it was a real treat.
David McAlmont - Vocals
Sam Obernik - Vocals
Janette Mason - Piano\ Synth
Dave Ital - Guitar
Simon Little - Bass
Jack Pollitt - Drums
Ashes To Ashes
Watch That Man
The Man Who Sold The World
Life On Mars
John I'm Only Dancing
Lady Grinning Soul
Wild Is The Wind