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Honouring a musical legend: Edmonton-based cover band Lazarus ensures David Bowie’s legacy lives on

“How do you grieve an immortal?” Stephan Boissonneault asked the crowd halfway through the band’s show at The Common on March 10, 2016.

“You don’t. You remember him.”

After hearing of David Bowie’s death on Sunday, Jan. 15, Boissonneault took to Facebook as a means of reaching out to fellow Bowie enthusiasts to accomplish just that. The result was the tribute band Lazarus.

Composed of Boissonneault, singer and guitarist; Andrew Brown, singer and guitarist; Astrid Sparks, singer and violinist; Jeremie Mahaux, bassist, and Jonn Lillico, drummer, the band began by jamming in Mahaux’s basement.

“The band is great because it’s a chance for everyone to get deeper into the music and really appreciate Bowie.” Mahaux says.

What was a spontaneous pipe dream quickly turned into a reality. Lazarus booked their first show at The Common before they even had their second rehearsal, eventually playing to an enthusiastic full house. Ultimately, their goal is the celebration, appreciation and remembrance of both the individuality and variety of the Starman’s days on earth.

“We’re paying a tribute to him as an individual as well as to his music.” Sparks says.

David Bowie passed away after an 18 month, private battle with cancer. He kept his illness hidden from the public, only choosing to confide in a few close friends and family. As a musician, actor, and overall icon, his unexpected death shocked the world.

Despite his terminal diagnosis, Bowie managed to record a final album and music video in the late stages of his illness. The album Blackstar, along with the music video for the song “Lazarus,” were released just days before his death and have been described as intrinsically Bowie. Both are a final gift to his fans, and a way of saying a lasting goodbye.

“There’s something symbolic and metaphorical about the album. It’s very foreboding now after his death. It’s still Bowie, it still has that authentic Bowie sound, but the meaning of the lyrics has changed.” says Sparks.

Few musicians had the cultural and individual impact of Bowie. As an artist, he was unapologetically true to himself, a trait which garnered the appreciation and admiration of his countless fans. Many members of Lazarus view Bowie as an influence not only musically, but personally.

“He transcends every stereotype and genre, not because he’s trying to but because he’s so genuine. He isn’t defined by any one thing.” Sparks says.

“He does what he thinks is cool, what he enjoys, and doesn’t worry about how it’s going to be received. He just puts it out there, and as we saw it was wonderful.” Mahaux says.

The way they speak of Bowie in the present tense indicates that Bowie will undoubtedly continue to live on in his body of work, despite his death.

Lazarus represents a broad range of Bowie’s career and artistry throughout the ages in an attempt to reach and engage as many people as possible. Each member dresses as Bowie from a different era including Aladin Sane (Brown), The Thin White Duke (Sparks), and a depiction of Bowie taken from his recent music video for the song “Lazarus” (Lillico). The 12 songs they play are a mix of crowd pleasers and personal favorites selected from Bowie’s extensive discography.

“If you asked different people what they know Bowie from they would have different answers, and that’s why his legacy is so profound. He belongs to everyone in a different way.” Sparks says.

With a tentative set at The Underdog on Wednesday, April 13, and talk of a larger show at the Buckingham, Lazarus hopes to continue playing shows for the foreseeable future.

“Everyone deserves to see Bowie’s music live once at least.” Sparks says.

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