Above Ground Pays Tribute To The Stooges and David Bowie For MusiCares Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison Host Star Studded Benefit Concert For Mental Health Awareness
LOS ANGELES, CA- On its webpage, MusiCares states that its purpose is to “provide a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need … treating each case with integrity and confidentiality.” The net that they cast wide and loving, having granted aid totaling over $60MM to over 58,000 clients in times of need (including over $6.7MM is disaster relief) and providing 8850 days of inpatient treatment for those suffering from substance abuse. With about $0.78 of every dollar donated going towards various programs and services, it goes without saying that MusiCares, established in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, provides services that are truly life-saving.
In particular, MusiCares has programs that are specific to mental health aid, and on September 16th, 2019, Dave Navaro and Billy Morrison decided to once again assembled a star-studded cast to help raise some money for that aim with their ABOVE GROUND concert event at the Fonda Theatre.
Last year, ABOVE GROUND, performed two seminal albums in their entirety: “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” by Adam and The Ants and “The Velvet Underground & Nico” by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. This year they repeated the musical endeavor by playing The Stooges’ self-titled, debut album and David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.
With a “who’s who” of talent taking the stage, Dave and Billy gave fans a truly once in a lifetime music experience.
Billy Idol, who would perform selections from both albums, kicked the evening off with The Stooges “1969”. Juliet Lewis then roared onto the stage with ferocious performances of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun”.
Dave then got personal and introspective with the eerie “We Will Fall”, prefacing the performance by addressing the crowd about his own personal struggles with mental health:
“Had it not be for reaching out, none of this would be here, and it was my pain and sadness when I turned to Billy Morrison, my good friend for many many years, and I said, “Billy, we got to do something. We’ve been losing friends, musicians, actors, relatives, family members, and let me tell you about depression and suicide.” Of course, we feel for the victim. We feel for the loss, but beyond that, it touches the lives of family members, friends, schools, everybody you interact with. I made it my journey, for the rest of my life, to give back […] These are lives. And they can be saved. And they can be touched. We have to erase the stigma of metnal health issues because face it … we all have some f*cking thing, right? And I say celebrate your differences because if you are a survivor, you are a f*cking warrior. You walk through it and you’re here to tell the story.”
Wayne Kramer of the legendary Detroit band MC5 performed “Real Cool Time” then Dave Kushner stepped onto the stage to accompany Billy Morrison’s cover of “Ann”. Camp Freddy vocalist Donovan Leitch stepped up to the mic for “Not Right”.
The conclusion of The Stooges tribute ended with a band when Ministry’s Al Jourgenson was introduced to the stage to perform “Little Doll”. He took a moment to remember his friend, Ric Ocasek, who had just past away a few days prior. In what felt like an impromptu moment, Billy cajoled Al to perform The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” (which is from their sophomore album Raw Power).
The intermission was hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky and Tom Arnold as they auctioned off various works by renowned street artists like Meg Zany, VYAL, Plastic Jesus, Teachr1 and a gorgeous piece by Dave Navarro. In addition to the proceeds from ticket sales, the art auction raised, by my non-verified count- an additional $8,000.
After intermission had passed, it was time for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. This was a particularly authentic tribute as Bowie stalwarts Carmine Rojas and Mike Garson were both in attendance and played on a handful of songs.
Billy Morrison started the tribute singing “Five Years” with Deadland Ritual’s Franky Perez, accompanied by Mat Shumer on sax, performing “Soul Love” next. Billy Idol, with his face now painted and wearing a particularly svelt red suit, returned to the stage for “Moonage Daydream”. Gavin Rossdale, who apparently flew back out to Los Angeles just for this event, to the delight of all the women in attendance, sang “Starman”.
Women would take center stage for the next set of songs as Stitched up Heart’s Mixi Demmer performed “It Ain’t Easy”, Laura on “Lady Stardust” a song that, through Navarro and Morrison’s admission, is very difficult to perform vocally. Background vocals Laura (whose last name escapes me) performed “Lady Stardust” with the inimitable Mike Garson on the keys, and Orianthi, sans her trademark PRS, sang “Star” accompanied by Billy Duffy on his Les Paul.
The Ziggy Stardust highlights would keep on rolling when Dave invited Perry Farrell, Etty Lau Farrell and Chris Chaney- a mini Jane’s Addiction reunion!- to perform both “Hang on to Yourself” and “Ziggy Stardust.” I was absolutely blown away with Perry Farrell’s performance of “Ziggy Stardust”. I’ve always loved listening to Bowie’s recording, but there is nothing- absolutely NOTHING, like hearing that opening chord progressions live. As soon as Perry sang the introductory “yeah” of “Ziggy Stardust” … fuggedaboudit. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, and I was simply gobsmacked. THIS was the performance of the evening for me.
You’d be hard-pressed finding a way to top a mini Jane’s Addiction reunion rock a seminal Bowie classic so perfectly, but leave it to Jack Black to do just that. Accompanied by the legend that is Steve Vai on guitar, and a pair of buxom drag queens, Jack rocked Above Ground into a satisfying frenzy with his wildly entertaining cover of “Suffragette City”.
Above Ground came full circle with the last song of the evening. Sung by Franky Perez, the song “Rock N Roll Suicide” was performed as a slideshow of artists who died because of the same project onto the screen on stage. Amidst all of the glorious music that was performed by legends this evening, it was all for the purposes of raising money for mental health awareness so that more beautiful flames don’t go out.
You can donate to MusiCares by CLICKING THIS LINK.