Sass Jordan: “Bowie & Me”

by Keith Valcourt

On January 10th, 2016 the world lost the brilliant musical Blackstar that was David Bowie. The void left by his unexpected departure reverberated through fans, both lifelong and casual. Never again would we get to witness the power and emotion of his music live. Not so fast, say those closest to the man himself. David Bowie’s former bandmates and musical collaborators realized that the only way to have the “Thin White Duke”/ “Ziggy Stardust” live on would be through his music. That’s why a powerhouse collective of Bowie’s best players, including Mike Garson, Gerry Leonard, Carmine Rojas and more have created “A Bowie Celebration.”

The live tour features performances of Bowie’s classic material drawn from his iconic albums. But who will fill in the most important space, that of lead singer? “A Bowie Celebration” has gathered some of the greatest voices in rock. Corey Glover from Living Colour. Joe Sumner from Fiction Plane. And finally, Canadian rocker chick extraordinaire Sass Jordan. While these singers know they can never be Bowie (or even try), they each bring a passionate reverence to performing his material live.

In advance of the show’s DC area gig on March 24th at The State Theater in Falls Church, VA, I caught up with Juno Award winner (That’s Canada’s Grammys) Sass Jordan to discuss the tour, her connection to Bowie and her just about to released blues album Rebel Moon Blues.

Photo: Michiel Driediijk

Q: In your own words, what is “A Bowie Celebration”?
A: “A Bowie Celebration” is a band headed up by Mike Garson who played piano and keyboards for Bowie for forty years. He is on a ton of his records. And Mike performed at least a thousand shows with him over the years. The rest of the band is made up of players who worked with Bowie over the years. Other than the singers, everyone has shared the stage and/or studio with David Bowie. The singers that are doing the U.S. leg of the tour are Corey Glover who was in Living Color, Joe Sumner who is Stings son and has his own band Fiction Plane. And me. The three of us are the main singers. Plus, Rachel Evan Wood the actress will do some of the shows. And they always have guest singers and guest players who come out. You never know who’s going to show up. It’s a lot of fun.

Q: There have been other Bowie tribute shows. What makes this one special?
A: To be honest with you, I’m not up on any of the other Bowie tribute bands. I only know this one. And what makes it special is the band. The players who played with Bowie. To me, this is the closest you’re going to get to a Bowie show. Obviously, without him. Mike Garson is delightful and divine. He tells amazing stories. If there is anyone who is going to keep carrying Bowie through the world today, it would be Mike. He’s amazing.

Q: What is the audience reaction?
A: It is extraordinary what happens in the venue when we start playing these songs with these people who played them originally with him. People start crying. This may sound stupid, but it’s almost a shared experience. Unbelievable. Even people who come in and think they will never be touched or moved in that way are reduced to tears. I had male fans come up to me after the show and say, “I thought this was going to be a load of bullshit, but I ended up crying.” There is something special about this show.

Q: What is your connection to Bowie and were you a fan?
A: Oh My God! If the thirteen-year-old me could see me now she would faint! I was a huge Bowie freak! I loved Mike Garson when I was thirteen because I loved the Aladdin Sane record. I said hello to David Bowie when I was younger. I was in the lobby of the venue The Spectrum in Montreal in the late eighties. I stood near him. That was the closest I ever got. Plus, the first concert I ever saw was the “Diamond Dogs” tour.

Photo: Derek Sharp

Q: What two albums are you guys playing on this tour?
A: We are doing Ziggy (Stardust) and Diamond Dogs.

Q: Did you get to pick which songs you sing?
A: I didn’t really get to pick them. I did get to say yes or no. We just finished touring Europe and Israel. We did Diamond Dogs in Europe and all hits in Israel. The songs I sing depend on the city. I think I’ll be doing “It Ain’t Easy” and maybe “45 Years.” I Also do “We Are The Dead” and “When You Rock and Roll With Me.” And I do “Time” from Aladdin Sane.

Q: What was your favorite Bowie album of all time?
A: I don’t have just one! I love Ziggy, Aladdin, Diamond Dogs. I also loved Hunky Dory. Around Station to Station he started losing me because I started going off in different directions with my musical taste. By then I liked f**king Bad Company Bro! (Laughs)

Q: Away from “A Bowie Celebration,” you also have a new album coming out. What keeps you motivated to make new music?
A: Music itself keeps me motivated. I frickin’ love it. My new record is a blues record of all blues covers except one for song that I co-wrote. What’s motivating me now are the people who hear it are flipping out. Who knew me doing some blues covers would get this kind of reaction? The fact that the record is being embraced is really motivating. I might do another one!

Q: As a female rocker in the early nineties, did you feel like it was harder for you because you were female?
A: At the time when my second record, Racine, came out, radio was very sexist. What they would say was, “We love the song. It’s great and everything. But we’re already playing a girl.” If they played Melissa Etheridge, they wouldn’t play me. It made no Goddamn sense. A girl? What the f**k does that have to do with it? That was the height of what I would say was negative about being female. The rest of it was my fault. What kind of an asshole female decides to do hard rock? Nobody likes that. (Laughs)

Q: Have things changed and are people more open these days to female rockers?
A: No. First of all, hard rock is not a really huge genre right now. Male or female. And female is even less because it’s generally not really believable. I’m sure there are females out there doing things I would think are awesome. But I haven’t heard them. The ones I have heard are not my idea of great. But blues? There are a lot of great female blues singers out there today.

Sass Jordan and “A Bowie Celebration” are at
The State Theater in Falls Church, VA on March 24th

For more info: http://www.abowiecelebration.com

***Publisher’s Note: Since the original publication, these shows have all be cancelled, rescheduled, or otherwise postponed. We recommend you reach out to these artists directly to learn how you can support them during this time of Social Distancing.***

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Keith Valcourt

Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing, ChelseaCommunityNews.com, RetroRoadMap.com LaArtsOnline and more. Much More

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