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“100% Perfection!” Celebrating David Bowie LIVE! at UCPAC

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The crowd inside Rahway, NJ’s historic UCPAC auditorium this Thursday, October 27, 2022 evening patiently awaits the start of CdB, the 2022 edition of the Celebrating David Bowie tribute concert starring Todd Rundgren and Adrian Belew.

Explains Carol from Freehold, a long-time Todd Rundgren fan, “Todd is a genius, and he’s outrageous! He’s intense, he’s whimsical — he can make you laugh — and he’s phenomenal; I’ve seen him many times and he never disappoints.” Carol’s friend, Kathy from Old Bridge, agrees, adding, “He has a tremendous following, too. We saw him this summer doing a Beatles tribute and it was just incredible.”

Adam, an Adrian Belew fan from Mountainside, reveals, “I know Adrian from King Crimson and when I heard he was playing tonight, I said, ‘I’m there!’ Plus, this Bowie concert is more than just a tribute show — it’s historical.” Frank from Trenton concurs, recalling, “I’ve met and followed Adrian since the 1980s. He’s a fabulous musician, and seeing him live goes way beyond what you can experience watching YouTube videos.”

Frank’s son — sporting a David Bowie T-shirt — acknowledges, “I’m here because I’m a David Bowie fan. I take after my dad, musically, and we’ve seen several David Bowie tribute shows. From them, I’m getting a great music education.”

Lastly, Marie from Colonia declares, “I’m a rock music fan! I’m a big Todd Rundgren fan — he’s an excellent musician, and I especially love his song, “Hello It’s Me” — but, of course, I love David Bowie’s music. Tonight’s show features a stellar group of musicians including Adrian Belew and Jeff Gaines — any of them could go out and perform on their own,” before concluding, “I’ve been so psyched all day for this show! I can’t believe it’s right here in Rahway in this great theater. It’s going to be a magical night!”

The crowd cheers as musicians Royston Langdon on keyboards/guitar, Rod Dziubla on saxophone/guitar/keyboards, Angeline Saris on bass, Travis McNabb on drums, and musical director Angelo “Scrote” Bundini on guitar take their places on stage.

“Good evening! How are we doing tonight? We’re Celebrating David Bowie,” announces Scrote before welcoming guitarist Adrian Belew to the stage.

Opening with the lively “Sound and Vision,” Belew skillfully handles the lead singing, “Don’t you wonder sometimes/About sound and vision?” Travis McNabb gets the crowd clapping along to his driving drums and Scrote sings harmony as he strums his guitar to flashing lights. Royston Langdon accompanies with keyboard chords before Belew ramps things up into a frenzy of sound which elicits excited cheers from the crowd.

Todd Rundgren enters in a canary yellow suit singing lead on “Young Americans.”

Crooning with his flawless falsetto, Rundgren dances while getting the crowd singing along on this soulful tune and turning the UCPAC auditorium into a party atmosphere. Scrote accompanies on guitar and Rod Dziubla plays a slick sax solo before Rundgren cries out the ending, inspiring audience members to stand and cheer for his powerful performance.

Jeffrey Gaines takes the stage to front “Moonage Daydream” singing with ease and emotion, “I’m an alligator/I’ll be a mama-papa comin’ for you.”

Heads in the audience bop to the beat in agreement to the rhythmic vibe. Scrote is featured on a powerful guitar solo before Dziubla comes down to play side-by-side with Scrote, the pair creating a wall of sound that fills the UCPAC auditorium.

In his white hat, Spacehog’s Royston Langdon plays acoustic guitar and serenades the crowd solo before the rest of the band kicks in on the avant-garde rocker, “Rock and Roll Suicide.” Langdon inspires cries from the audience that build into a plea as he drops his guitar and grabs his mic to sing directly to the crowd with passion, “Give me your hands cause you’re wonderful.”

Langdon switches over to piano as Rundgren returns to sing “Changes.” Rundgren’s voice is full and clear as he interprets this classic Bowie pop song.

Belew returns to sing back up with Langdon and Scrote and the audience joins in singing on the well-known “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes” chorus before erupting in hoots and hollers.

On “Starman,” the crowd joins Belew in singing the famous “There’s a starman waiting in the sky/He’d like to come and meet us/But he thinks he’d blow our minds” refrain.

Langdon sings lead on the mystical rocker, “The Man Who Sold the World,” Gains plays acoustic guitar while crooning the rhythmic “Five Years,” and Langdon plays acoustic on the folk-rocking “Ziggy Stardust” where he spins a story crying, “Ziggy played guitar/Jamming good with Weird and Gilly/And the Spiders from Mars.”

Rundgren enters in a silver suit to sing “Life on Mars.” Langdon’s piano cascades add to the drama of this theatrical number which features a near-operatic vocal performance from Rundgren on the tuneful melody. Holding out notes with power and style, Rundgren’s voice intensifies with the music on the dynamic “Sailors fighting in the dance hall/Oh man, look at those cavemen go/It’s the freakiest show” refrain before he brings the UCPAC audience to its feet.

Scrote exclaims, “Holy cow! Todd Rundgren!” before music lovers sing along with Langdon while waving their hands in the air on “Ashes to Ashes.” With its funky staccato accompaniment, Langdon dances in slow motion to the rhythm of this backbeat-driven techno-rocker.

Travis McNabb’s drums take center stage on “Fame” where Belew plays electric guitar and sings to the irresistible funk-rock groove which has audience members throughout the auditorium dancing at their seats.

Scrote sings lead on the funk/reggae “Fashion,” and gets fingers snapping along to “Golden Years,” a funk/disco number on which Langdon shows his vocal range and prowess. Everyone claps and snaps at the end as Langdon whistles.

Rundgren plays guitar along with lead vocalist Scrote and Belew, and Langdon and Dziubla play keyboards on the soulful rocker, “Stay.” Rundgren’s guitar solo brings cheers from the crowd before Belew plays his solo with pedals and a whammy bar, shaping the guitar’s sound and making it waver and bounce across the stage before it wafts out into the auditorium eliciting cheers and applause from the crowd.

On a mash-up of Bowie’s “D.J.” and “Boys Keep Swinging,” Belew plays an impressive one-handed guitar solo that wails with effects and feeling. Audience members stand and dance to the CdB band prior to responding with cheers, whistles, and applause.

Along with Belew, Scrote creates a symphony of sound from his guitar before the rest of the ensemble — including Dziubla — joins in playing on “Station to Station.”

Scrote sings lead as the melody of this art rock composition emerges. Rundgren saunters up to the mic to sing harmony with Scrote before strutting across the stage crooning, “It’s too late to be grateful/It’s too late to be late again/It’s too late to be hateful” on the musical interlude.

Gaines addresses the crowd asking, “Rahway, how you doing?” and follows up with a soulful performance of “Win.”

The mood changes as Dziubla comes downstage to solo on tenor as the audience claps along. His low and mournful reed playing envelopes the audience as he bends notes and lets them echo throughout the historic UCPAC auditorium.

Rundgren returns in his metallic outfit to sing lead with Belew on “Space Oddity,” the pair counting down until the song takes orbit under streams of white light. The band’s theatrical arrangement and performance brings Bowie’s music to life with majesty as the duo sings, “Ground control to Major Tom/The time is near, there’s not too long.” Rundgren and Belew sing in harmony before Rundgren dances off to the thunderous sound and Belew slides up his guitar on the song’s coda.

The space theme continues with Scrote singing lead and playing guitar on “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “Hallo Spaceboy” before Langdon’s voice is featured on the edgy techno-pop tune, “I’m Afraid of Americans.”

The crowd cheers and Gaines takes the stage, asking, “What’s happening? Are you having fun? You gonna help me sing this one?” Music lovers react by standing, singing, and clapping along with him on “Blue Jean.” Lights flash to the driving beat as Dziubla plays a sax solo.

Scrote reveals, “This is a song that David Bowie gave to Adrian Belew,” to which Belew jokes, “And I took it!” Rundgren plays electric guitar as Belew sings “Pretty Pink Rose,” a number he recorded with David Bowie in 1990.

Following large applause, Scrote exclaims, “We want to hear you up here and we want to see you dancing in the aisles!” Audience members oblige and stand and dance to Bowie’s 1983 Billboard chart-topper, “Let’s Dance,” where Langdon sings lead and Rundgren plays a guitar solo.

The band vamps and Gaines comes out to sing “Rebel Rebel” to the crowd which continues to stand, sing, and dance to the rockin’ CdB band.

Dziubla is featured on a staccato and honking saxophone solo under flashing lights while playing downstage to the crowd. Ending in a flurry of sound, Rundgren returns to sing “All the Young Dudes.”

Audience members happily sing along with their hands in the air on the “All the young dudes/Carry the news” refrain of this Bowie/Mott the Hoople glam rocker before erupting into cheers and applause.

Rundgren exclaims, “We love you! Do you love us, too?” as the band exits the stage. The crowd stands and cheers for more, the musicians retake the stage, and Scrote declares, “We know a couple more Bowie songs! Come on boys!” as he and the band launch into “Suffragette City.”

Gaines sings lead and the crowd happily joins in on the “Oh don’t lean on me man, ’cause you can’t afford the ticket” refrain before Gains invites the audience to take a solo on the song’s “Wham bam thank you ma’am!” lyric.

Scrote introduces his fellow band members before he and the musicians perform their final song of the evening, “Heroes.” Scrote, Langdon, Rundgren, and Below each take turns singing lead on this art rock tune as audience members sway their arms while singing, “We can be heroes/Just for one day.” Following the powerful conclusion, the band bows together, waves goodbye, and exits as the audience continues to cheer and applaud.

As music lovers make their way out of the UCPAC auditorium, we chat with several crowd members who share their thoughts on tonight’s CdB performance. Exclaims Carol, the Todd Rundgren fan from Freehold with whom we talked before the show, “It was magnificent!” joking, “It was Todd-nificent!” before adding, “All the musicians were sensational. Royston Langdon was phenomenal and Rod Dziubla on sax blew me away. I didn’t want it to end.”

Carol’s friend, Kathy from Old Bridge, concurs, explaining, “Todd fits himself into whatever’s needed — he morphs himself into each song’s character, no matter what song they give him. He has such great stage presence, he pulls you right into each number, and the song selections were perfect for this audience. It was total entertainment from start to finish and it ended with everyone on their feet.”

Colin from Rahway acknowledges, “I’m a huge David Bowie fan, and this show was really good. The band played Bowie for two-and-a-quarter hours non-stop, and not many shows give you anything like that.” Orin from Springfield agrees, calling tonight’s Celebrating David Bowie concert “Absolutely phenomenal, with great musicianship and song selection.” Orin’s friend, Adam from Manhattan, further adds, “We were pleased with how great this show was — Todd Rundgren, Royston Langdon, Jeffrey Gains, and Adrian Belew were all way beyond what we expected. We loved it!”

Maryanne from Kenilworth calls CdB, “Fantastic — amazing!” explaining, “Every song was great,” while Dennis from Kenilworth says, “It was unbelievable! Very high caliber. Bowie with Todd Rundgren? That’s IT! Adrian Belew’s guitar work? Amazing. There wasn’t a lull in the show, and Rod Dziubla’s sax playing was great — you gotta have sax with Bowie — and Angeline Saris’ bass playing was phenomenal, too.”

Whereas Larry from Howell comments, “All of the singers were extremely impressive, Adrian Belew played some amazing guitar solos, and Todd? Todd is Todd — he’s always excellent,” Jan from Newark agrees, adding, “Any Bowie fan should see this show. Not one person will be disappointed,” before concluding, “It was 100% perfection!”

To learn more about Celebrating David Bowie, please go to celebratingdavidbowie.com. For further information on upcoming performances at UCPAC — including Scared Scriptless with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood on December 16, Get the Led Out on February 2, 2023, and Broadway’s Mandy Patinkin on February 18, 2023 — please click on ucpac.org.

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For the best in Jersey entertainment reviews, news, and interviews, keep it focused on Spotlight Central