- Ryan Orange
- Serious moonlighting: Julian Shah-Tayler aims to channel Bowie's spirit without copying his every move.
For every generation that's gone from adolescence to mid-life crisis, there's a plethora of bands eager to replicate the soundtrack to its long-lost youth. And Colorado Springs is a magnet for them all: In the coming months, Stargazers alone will be bringing in evening-long tributes to Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel, Journey, the Eagles, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix.
In other words, the '60s and '70s are pretty much covered. So now it's time to usher in another decade with New Wave Fest, a touring tribute in which Depeche Mode, The Cure and David Bowie are replicated by the bands Strangelove, The Cured and Electric Duke.
Julian Shah-Tayler, lead vocalist of both the Bowie and Depeche Mode tributes, is an LA musician whose lengthy resumé includes soundtrack work with Lana del Rey and a mercifully brief stint in Courtney Love's band. He did his first Bowie performance three years ago to raise funds for a music education charity he and a friend started in an underprivileged LA neighborhood. After a few more one-off gigs, he and the rest of the band were taking on material from throughout Bowie's long and chameleonic career.
"One of the biggest challenges is that we have to emulate about 50 different musicians," says Shah-Tayler, who describes his bandmates as "classically trained and fantastically good." The singer also occasionally moonlights as Cure frontman Robert Smith, but not on this tour. Of the three, he finds Bowie to be the most daunting.
"I have to be honest, because personally I don't feel I come close to honoring Bowie's legacy," says the British ex-pat. "I can sing reasonably well, and I feel like most people are happy with my performance, but I don't really think that my timbre is exactly right for Bowie. I mean, I get a lot of comments saying, 'Oh, you sound exactly like him.' But to me, I sound like somebody trying to sound like David Bowie."
A year after his idol's death, Shah-Tayler is still coming to terms with his passing. "I'm absolutely destroyed that there will not be another Bowie album," he says, while recalling a gig at LA's Viper Room shortly after Bowie's death. "We had three more songs left to go, but we'd gone overtime and had to finish with 'Lazarus.' There were a lot of people crying in the audience — and that was not my intention to do that — but it had a very resonant effect on those people."
But even if it were possible, Shah-Tayler feels it would be inappropriate to do a complete carbon copy of Bowie's stage shows.
"I do as much as I can to channel the spirit of Bowie without adhering strictly to every dance move that he did," he says. "I think that if he'd come to one of our performances and seen me do that, he would have just said, 'Well, what's the point?'"