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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the WCHS TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: March 19, 2018

Mat Zaro and friends pay tribute to David Bowie, again

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Mat Zaro’s 2017 David Bowie tribute show featured Bowie’s “Station to Station” and “Blackstar” albums. Photo by Dylan Verner

Last year, Mat Zaro and his band performed a truly sensational tribute to David Bowie. They played the entire “Station to Station” album and then did every song from “Blackstar,” and the entire show impressed the heck out of me. David Bowie is my favorite musician, and my heart is still healing over his passing – and I can be fairly judgmental when it comes to people paying homage to him. But hats off, for sure, to Zaro and company. It was a fitting tribute to an artist whose song lyric I have tattooed on my left arm.


This year, singer Zaro, drummer Luc Bergeron, guitarists Scott Hughes and Jerry Perron, keys players Jim Goss and Kris Rogers and bassist Geoff Chartier will be taking over the Port City stage for a brand new Bowie show. They’ll be performing, in order and in its entirety, the complete 2017 expanded edition of Bowie’s 1978 live album, “Stage.”

Zaro explained that this version has five songs more than were on the original release, and it has another notable element: “Unlike the original, it restores and (more or less) completes the live running order of the 1978 Isolar II tour set list,” explained Zaro. Which means they’ll be playing a staggering 22 songs in all.

“We’ll also be specifically playing the arrangements from those versions. Some are similar, but some are drastically different from the original studio recordings,” said Zaro.

Let me put that through my Bowie translator for you: This is awesome!

David Bowie’s “Stage” live album was released in 1978. Photo courtesy of RCA Records

When asked why he chose this particular album to replicate, Zaro points to the albums “Low” (1977), “Heroes” (1977) and “Lodger” (1979), collectively referred to as “The “Berlin Trilogy.” “That has always been my absolute favorite period of Bowie’s career, and the 1978 Isolar II tour that yielded the live double album ‘Stage’ began almost exactly 40 years from the night of this year’s celebration.”

Those are good enough reasons for me, and although I love many periods of Bowie’s career, I agree with Zaro that there’s something extraordinary about those “Berlin Trilogy” records, all of which were recorded after Bowie lived in West Berlin for a period. Bowie collaborated with Tony Visconti and Brian Eno on all three albums, to stunning effect. Visconti also produced several other Bowie albums, including his final one, “Blackstar.”

“Stage,” Zaro explained, is home to wonderfully unique, deep cuts from one of Bowie’s most creative and fascinating periods, as well as major hits and crowd favorites from the Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke eras. This means that Zaro and his band will be opening their show with one of my favorite Bowie songs, the dark and haunting “Warszawa.” This song has been giving me chills for decades with its ghostly synths and eerie vocalizations.

The very next song is one of Bowie’s finest moments, “Heroes.” Then it’s right back into the “Low” album with “What in the World.”

That’s the thing about “Stage” that I love so much. It goes in and out, as Zaro pointed out, of well-known Bowie songs like “The Jean Genie,” “Fame,” “Five Years” and “Suffragette City,” to ones that weren’t radio staples, like “Art Decade,” “Sense of Doubt,” “Blackout” and another personal favorite, “Stay.” In fact, “Stay” is one of the reasons I’m most excited about the Portland show. It’s from Bowie’s 1976 album “Station to Station” and was one of my favorite moments from last year’s show. Zaro’s got a terrific voice, and his accompanying musicians are all top-drawer.

And here’s a fun fact about this show I’d be remiss not to mention: Kyle Gervais’s band KG Freeze will kick things off by playing the 1978 Iggy Pop album “TV Eye: Live,” recorded during Pop’s 1977 “Lust for Life” tour. “Lust for Life,” along with Pop’s “The Idiot” album, were both written and recorded with Bowie in 1977. I’m not a hardcore Pop fan, but I sure as heck appreciate the tunes “Nightclubbing,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “Lust for Life” and, especially, “Funtime.”

And here’s one more fun fact to leave you with: Bowie starred in the 1983 film “The Hunger” with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. The first time I ever heard the song “Funtime” was when it was used in a rollerskating/vampire scene in “The Hunger.”

With that, see you on Friday night!

The 2nd Annual Celebration of David Bowie: Isolar 2

9 p.m. Friday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18-plus. portcitymusichall.com

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