BOWIE_BEAU BLITZKREIG! Lady Sasha savours the ravishing reinterpretations of Bowie’s Classics by Sven Ratzke, the Male cabaret doyenne supreme! ★★★★★
Zedel Brasserie, Piccadilly Circus Tube. 5 stars!
Who needs tribute toss-pots lazily hi-jacking the star-power of dead pop princes? Not me, but way too many clueless clowns – AKA the brain-dead, general public – are gluttons for the non-stop, shameless, and – more often than not – shockingly poor acts of fawning, musical necrophilia called tribute shows.
But – in a most bitter and ludicrous irony – the worst purveyors of tribute tripe are, most often, the original singers of modern standards themselves. Frankly, there are few spectacles on planet earth more pitiable than some pathetic ghost of a former star grasping at – and spectacularly missing – their totally extinct charisma.
The worst offender? Arguably, Minelli, petulantly petrified in a lifestyle amber of raging mommy issues, cheesy pastiches of faux-decadence, deadbeat drama-queening and flaccid, grand-folly flings with chancers and confidence trickster train-wrecks. If nothing else, Liza’s a textbook lesson on how not to idolise your musical muse, which, quite disastrously, was her mom; who the f*ck needed a raging reincarnation of Judy’s manias, especially heightened by a seemingly obligatory, 1970s celebrity coke culture?
Mercifully, some tribute acts have both style and dignity. Meet Sven Ratzke, a name inexplicably underexposed to UK audiences, but an interpreter of Bowie – and other, equally strange and maverick talents – par excellence. And why does Sven’s artistry tower far above bland, Bowie-by-numbers clones like the thoroughly glib and unengaging Dusty Limits? In a word, panache; Sven both respects Bowie’s repertoire and treats it with the semantic intimacy it deserves, making many of Bowie’s finest songs – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide or Heroes, for example – riveting disclosures and confessionals, not flayed symphonies of raw, spiritual anguish.
And the effect of Sven’s approach? More exhilarating than a full-body blow-job; quite effortlessly, he captures the instantaneous magic sparked – and as quickly extinguished – by a chance, sexually-explicit whisper from a random street doorway. Never been hit on that way? How sad; in the darkened, midnight pavilions of Rue Saint-Denis, Paris’s immemorial hive of prostitution, a husky female sigh inviting instant intimacy sank an immediate fish-hook in my suddenly thrilled male flesh.
And similarly, at Zedel – the perfect, faux-Art Deco setting for radical retromania – Sven’s radiantly seductive aura turns massed, gay male heads from the get-go. All zip-up, double-breasted, violet gabardine jumpsuit and Cuban-heeled, turquoise-glitter knee boots, he’s a textbook Aryan uber-jugen. And there are very few performers – straight, gay or magically in-between – who could convincingly rock a frosted, Farrah Fawcett-Majors feather-cut, but Sven simply transcends time-capsule retro-chic, his storming charisma making his sartorial choices seem intriguingly timeless and non-specific.
It’s a heady, visual ambiguity he also brings to his singing, especially his hauntingly beautiful take on Where Are We Now, but Sven’s no one-note Bowie copyist; rather, he’s a startlingly inventive, improvisational raconteur who skewers reckless hecklers – like one obtuse, British jerkenstein at Zedel – with a word.
In a seamless, utterly immersive framing narrative, Sven shares riveting memories of his magical, aural seduction on first hearing Bowie, and punctuates the songs with luscious anecdotes of Cold War Berlin diva Romy Haag, Bowie’s transsexual muse. Enchantingly, he’s bashfully modest regarding his own, very considerable songwriting chops – his song ‘The Torch’ brilliantly recreates the glamour of lost Berlin – and, like every truly exceptional talent, closes his short show leaving the audience simply pleading for more!
Sadly – for his new mountain of instantly converted fans – Sven’s not back at Zedel or the UK until November, but we’d recommend booking ASAP – Sven is one world-class talent on the cusp of global adoration!