Let's go cat dancing: Jen Paulson reviews Rock for Pussy

Categories: Concert Review

Rock For Pussy: A Tribute to David Bowie
First Avenue, Friday May 16
Review by Jen Paulson
Photos by Alexa Jones and Steven Cohen

Rock for Pussy, now in its fifth year, will see that all kinds of rock and roll kitties at the Minnesota Valley Humane Society get a helping hand with the proceeds. The combination of patrons, local music luminaries and musicians -- including organizer, on-air personality and local personality Mary Lucia -- make this night of non-stop Bowie covers a yearly highlight of the Minneapolis music calendar.

As the band took to the stage, they opened with the grinding, defiant guitar licks of “Rebel, Rebel” as interpreted by Michelle Langner, who might be more familiar as Nadine Dubois from Lili’s Burlesque Revue. The combination of everyone in attendance, from the house band of Kitty Stardust on stage, a rotation of John Eller, Steve Price, Noah Levy, along with a full package of horns, synth, and fabulous backup singing talents of Langner and Leslie Ball. Along with Eric Lovold of local rock outfit The Alarmists joining them regularly and who would also take the front mic on his rendition of the Aladdin Sane track “Time”. It was an amazing group effort, with a surplus of highlights that could leave me writing about the evening for days.

Eric Lovold of the Alarmists rocks for pussy. Photo by Alexa Jones. More photos by Alexa Jones and Steven Cohen in the slideshow.

For starters, Leslie Ball’s performance of “Life on Mars” started in an understated fashion and built into an amazing and incredibly proficient cover, as it fully captured the song’s true scope, operatic vent and multi-layered epic nature. It sent shivers up my spine in its perfect execution, and was absolutely thrilling to hear live.

Among the evening’s slated guests, Venus and All the Pretty Horses tore the place apart in trademark over-the-top fashion. As the band took the stage, there was a theatrical build-up to Venus’ arrival, with an entourage, complete with paparazzi, as glammed up lady cops shined spotlights into the crowd and at Venus as she sang “Fame.” It was a true interpretation of those Ziggy Stardust years, as she was dressed in an amazing outfit, complete with big boots, fishnets, and a fierce glam-rock bodice, complete with feathers and even more gigantic ones sticking from her hair. It was the true extreme of the night, and was so exceptionally befitting, that even watching Venus enjoying the show from the mainroom floor was like peering in on that legendary Bowie persona itself.

Another dash into the dressing up box was a performance by Dave Campbell and Dan Olson as Bowie and Jagger respectively, recreating their cheesy eighties video moment of “Dancing in the Street” as the show’s true comedic genius, with Campbell’s outfit practically matching The Thin White Duke’s video wardrobe and Olson doing his best, dead-on Jagger prance.

Dave Campbell and Dan Olson as Bowie and Jagger. Photo by Steven Cohen. More photos by Alexa Jones and Steven Cohen.

While the show found its leadership in John Eller, it also can’t be denied that one of the real stars of this year’s show was no doubt Mr. Chris Pericelli – Little Man lead singer and guitarist who is both Marc Bolan of T Rex and Bowie combined. Featured on multiple songs, especially notable is his treatment on “Hang on to Yourself,” with his vocals full of Bowie panache and with a guitar prowess was as close to Mick Ronson himself as you could possibly get in his blistering guitar solos on “Ziggy Stardust” and “Starman.” Lori Barbero’s version of "Changes" far exceeded the songs nature, as she added her own touch to Bowie’s introspection, with a confident, in your face treatise to accepting ones fate, her stage posturing and highly charismatic performance oozed old guard charm and left every one in the house singing along.

The evening’s cast of characters and players joined to close the night with “Suffragette City,” a song that I initially questioned as a finale choice. But as everyone filled that First Avenue stage, it didn’t even matter. All that mattered was that the crowd was rocking out as a united whole -- full of rockers and hipsters, goths and regular folk, loving all there is to being an obsessive Bowie fan. I think I can speak for all of us when I say: I can’t wait until next year. -- Jen Paulson

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