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Promoter Michael Dorf Talks About David Bowie Tribute

05:30 PM Monday 1/11/16 | |

David Bowie made his debut at Carnegie Hall in September 1972 as one of the stops on his first U.S. tour with his backing band The Spiders From Mars. Come March the famed New York venue will host a show celebrating his music. Presenter Michael Dorf talks to Pollstar about how the event has turned into a memorial concert following Bowie’s death.

Scheduled March 31, “The Music of David Bowie” marks the 12th annual tribute concert at Carnegie Hall presented by Dorf. The event features up to 20 artists with a setlist devoted to classic Bowie songs. So far, confirmed performers include The RootsBettye LaVetteThe Mountain GoatsAnn Wilson, Robyn Hitchcock, Cyndi LauperJakob DylanPerry FarrellTony Visconti, Bowie’s longtime producer/collaborator, has signed on to lead the house band.

The initial lineup for Bowie’s tribute was announced via The New York Times at midnight Sunday. An hour and a half later, the legendary singer’s Facebook and Twitter were updated to say he had died Jan. 10 following an 18-month battle with cancer. 

A message on MusicOf.com says that the The Music of David Bowie organizers are “all deeply saddened at this news. … The show is taking on many more emotions. RIP David and may God’s love be with you.”  

Dorf tells Pollstar that it was a “bizarre coincidence” the lineup announcement seemed to coincide with news of Bowie’s passing. He notes that the “Music Of” show and all of the planning that goes along with marketing and setting an onsale date, had been in the works for the past seven to eight months. Tickets went on sale this morning and quickly sold out.

“From a promoter’s standpoint, the show sold out in two hours – all 2,800 tickets – and that is an unprecedented thing for anything I’ve ever experienced,” Dorf says. “But it’s all kind of a very bittersweet success in the sense that it’s now a tribute to someone who’s passed versus a tribute to someone who was probably going to be in attendance.”

  • David Bowie

    In his Ziggy Stardust period pictured in Philadelphia.
    December 1, 1972

    (Brian Horton/AP, file)


Dorf explained that about half of the past “Music Of” honorees have accepted his invitation to attend their respective concerts. A few artists have even performed.

“Last year Talking Heads created a marching band and they came down the center aisle for the encore, which was a huge, great dramatic moment for the evening,” Dorf said. “I’ll never forget Michael Stipe walking me to the center stage of the stage to take a bow and holding my hand – you know, these are my idols. To have them show up and participate … it’s always a dream for me because I’m just a big fan.

“With David, he had obviously been very, very reclusive for the last decade. But his musical collaborator and his band leader for the last dozen years, Tony Visconti, has agreed to lead the house band for our show. Tony was in touch with David, and David was aware [of the “Music Of” concert]. We were getting no promises, there’s always fingers crossed, but we were getting indication that he thought it was looking really good and there was a pretty good likelihood that [Bowie] was going to attend, maybe not perform but certainly attend and be honored.”

  • David Bowie

    Launching the U.S. leg of his worldwide “A Reality Tour” at Madison Square Garden in New York.
    December 15, 2003

    (Kathy Willens/AP, file)


Dorf said that since Bowie’s death was announced, he’s been “getting calls from all kinds of people who’d like to participate” in the show. Fans have also been reaching out via email and on social media, asking about tickets.

“But there are no more tickets,” Dorf said. “So we’re looking at what else we could do the next day. How do we extend this? And it’s not about making more money. The whole thing is a benefit for charity. But our hearts are going out – part of the process of saying goodbye to a legend like this is to listen to their music. So if there’s a way to add another day or something, we’re exploring right now what else we can do. The whole thing is kind of unprecedented territory.”

All of the net proceeds from “Music Of” events go to music education programs including Church Street School for Music & Art, The American Symphony Orchestra, The Center For Arts Education, and Little Kids Rock. Visit MusicOf.org for more information.