Hoopla

Broadway star rocking into Bowie realm with Orchestra Iowa pops concert

WINDBORNE PRODUCTIONS INC.

Recording artist Tony Vincent, who has leading roles in “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “American Idiot” on Broadway, will sing the title role in “The Music of David Bowie” with a rock band and Orchestra Iowa. The Pops Concert will be staged Saturday night (2/23) at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids.
WINDBORNE PRODUCTIONS INC. Recording artist Tony Vincent, who has leading roles in “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “American Idiot” on Broadway, will sing the title role in “The Music of David Bowie” with a rock band and Orchestra Iowa. The Pops Concert will be staged Saturday night (2/23) at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids.
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Getting inside David Bowie’s skin is “oddly comfortable” for Tony Vincent.

The Broadway star and recording artist will take the Bowie lead with a rock band and Orchestra Iowa in Saturday’s (2/23) pops concert at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids.

Titled “The Music of David Bowie,” the sight and sound extravaganza will blast through some of the most influential music of the 20th century from the ultimate chameleon who burst onto the pop, rock, stage and screen scenes.

“He influenced me so much as a songwriter and as a musician, that it’s incredibly refreshing,” Vincent, 45, said by phone from his home in New York City in January, right before he, his wife and their two young children moved to Nashville.

“What I love about this experience (is that) it’s allowed me to be kind of quirky and silly in the storytelling, and actually show who I am as an individual, as opposed to trying to put on a character in a play or musical, or something like that,” he said.

“When I was younger, even doing my own music, I always had this viewpoint of ‘I have to be a certain thing.’ I’ve got to seem like I’m educated, I have to seem sophisticated, I have to be eloquent, or I have to be cool, or I have to be whatever — fill in the blank. This experience has freed me from those issues and trappings that I think held me down as a performer,” said Vincent, who starred on Broadway in “Rent,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “American Idiot” and “Rocktopia.”

In London, he appeared as Simon Zealotes in the 2000 film remake of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and sang the lead role of Galileo Figaro in the Queen musical “We Will Rock You” from 2002 to 2003. To further his Queen connections, he performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Queen in the 2002 Party at the Palace, honoring the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, and a decade later, he auditioned for the second season of NBC’s “The Voice” with “We Are the Champions,” earning him a spot on CeeLo Green’s team — and lots of industry exposure.

An Albuquerque native, Vincent said he’s been an Anglophile since age 4, when he heard the opening chord of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” on a record. He credits that moment with launching his musical odyssey and eventually developing what he called his “English-isms.”

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“It was like, ‘What is coming out of these speakers, because whatever it is, I want to be a part of it,” he said.

Being part of the Bowie concert is “incredibly freeing,” he said, “because it’s the material that I’m so used to and paints the landscape of my youth, but at the same time, it’s allowed me to be a better performer — and I had no idea that would be the result of this.”

He doesn’t strive to look like Bowie.

“I don’t’ try to do an impersonation at all,” he said. “What I try to do is present his music in the most authentic way possible. I think it would be a big misstep if I try to emulate what he did. It think it’s also a matter of respect. There was only one David Bowie. No one wants someone trying to replace him, so I just try to be as authentic as I can to the material and be the best possible performer I can.”

The concert will cover a wide swath of music from the rock icon who died of liver cancer on Jan. 10, 2016. Bowie left behind a deep and rich legacy of pop hits and personas beginning with his “Space Oddity” hitmaker in 1969 with its instantly recognizable intro, “Ground Control to Major Tom.” His other trailblazing phases include his androgynous glam-rock alter ego Ziggy Stardust in 1972, his “plastic soul” sound with the 1975 “Young Americans” album and its breakout hit, “Fame,” on through his pop stylings with “China Girl” in 1983 — and on and on.

As much as Vincent enjoys singing all of this music, he does have a couple of favorite moments in the show, which he has been performing since shortly after Bowie’s death.

“I connect with a song called ‘Ashes to Ashes’ more than any other, just because lyrically, I associate with that as an individual who has struggled in the past with addiction issues,” he said. “(And) it’s hard to not to enjoy what ‘Space Oddity’ is. It’s such an epic song in nature, and then when you put a symphony behind it, it becomes incredibly magical.”

Bowie’s music lends itself well to orchestral arrangements, he added, with lush strings and other acoustic instruments bringing their own sound swell to the fore.

“There’s some artists it really caters to more than others,” Vincent said of the symphonic treatment. “His music is so epic and sort of symphonic in general, the way he has arranged the material, that it really lends itself beautifully to having an orchestra back it.”

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Tim Hankewich, Orchestra Iowa’s musical director, agreed, noting that he’s still amazed that after doing rock/orchestral mashups for the 13 years he’s been in Cedar Rapids, people still seem astonished the genres can meld.

“It surprises me how often I have to tell people these are not just orchestra arrangements of popular melodies,” he said. “These are tribute bands coming in with full vocals, faithfully reproduced in the way that people grew up with, just with the added benefit of a symphony orchestra behind them, bolstering the sound.”

The acoustic/electronic instrumental crossover that was so popular in the ’70s and ’80s has largely been lost in today’s music, Hankewich said, “which is why a lot of these concerts that we do — classic rock with orchestra — work so well.”

It’s a sound he grew up with “by default,” thanks to his older sister’s fandom. “I had no choice but to listen to it all the time,” he said with a laugh.

He described the upcoming concert as “a good blast to the past.”

“Think about all that British Invasion stuff,” he said. “There was a time in ’70s where Britannia ruled the world. ...

“It’s fascinating how music really defines a person and their generation, so it’s no surprise to me that each generation is tied to a particular style of music,” Hankewich said. “Generally speaking, we try and do these things when the band is either no longer existing or touring anymore, or the artist is no longer with us.”

“Oddly enough people still have a hard time wrapping their heads around how a symphony orchestra and a rock concert can be compatible,” he said.

“For some reason, when the word ‘symphony’ is attached to the program, they think that the experience is going to be different than a rock concert, and as such, people stay away, and they’re missing out, because it’s not a symphony concert. It’s a rock concert. The symphony orchestra just happens to be on stage, making the band larger.”

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l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

GET OUT!

WHAT: Orchestra Iowa Pops: “The Music of David Bowie,” with guest vocalist Tony Vincent & rock band

WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 119 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (2/23)

TICKETS: $18 to $55, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com/Events/Default.aspx

ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Tonyvincent.com

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