Sunday 23 October 2016

'Festival was Bowie's Irish wake' - Dublin bandmate

Fans have reacted with shock at the news of David Bowie's death
Fans have reacted with shock at the news of David Bowie's death
John Brereton Photo: Arthur Carron Photography
Dubliner Gerry Leonard, who played with Bowie

Fans of David Bowie last night gathered in their hundreds in a city pub to share their memories of their Starman idol.

Tribute band Rebel Rebel took to the stage at the Grand Social which had just played host to a Bowie Festival.

Dublin guitarist Gerry Leonard, who had worked extensively with Bowie and had flown home to attend the two-day event, said that it had been a celebration of Bowie's music - but had now taken on an extra poignancy.

"What it feels like now is we had an Irish wake," he said.


A book of condolence was opened and candles were lit in the pub last night, with more than 200 fans in attendance.

Lisa Lavelle, who had her face painted in Aladdin Sane style, said she has been left "absolutely gutted" by the death of the 69-year-old star.

"I didn't expect it at all - and with the new album out and everything. He has always been around throughout my life, he's so pervasive in pop culture," she said. "I think he's the kind of artist that brings a lot of people together... People connect through his music," the Sligo woman added.

John Brereton, who runs the venue, said people had travelled for the weekend's festival from as far afield as Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

"I'm a Bowie fanatic, obviously, and once you get into that stuff it never leaves you - and that's why so many people were upset today," he said.

Dublin-based Gwen Devita, originally from New York, said she used to steal her aunt's Bowie albums to listen to them.

"I've been really upset about it all day long," she said. "I think he was an absolute star while he was here and he left like a gentleman, which is what he was - an absolute legend, and I loved him."

She said she feels devastated at the news of Bowie's passing after an 18-month battle with cancer.

A member of Bowie's inner circle, Gerry Leonard previously performed with him at the Point Theatre in November 2003 for the Reality Tour.

"We're all in shock. I was just talking with my friends about it and it's fair to say he elevated music into an art form, and he was a leader for us all," he said.

"He was part of our cultural fabric and it's a really sad loss for us. He was amazing, one of a kind, and a master at what he did."

Clontarf native Gerry, who was also Bowie's musical director, said he got in touch with Bowie last Friday following the release of his Blackstar album on his 69th birthday.

"I emailed him after the record came out and I complimented him on it, and I got a note back saying that he was very pleased with his work on it," he said.

"For us, it was mostly about the work - but we were friends too.

"We got along well and he's been to my home and met my daughter and my wife. We had dinner together and we had some good conversations - and I'll miss that."


Having got to know him off-stage for so many years, he said that Bowie was also unique as a person, too.

"He was so special. He changed my life and I'll be eternally grateful," he said.

Gerry, who uses the alias Spooky Ghost for his solo projects, featured on Bowie's 2002 album Heathen, as well as his 2003 release, Reality.

He was then called up for duty on his 'comeback' album, The Next Day (2013), on which he co-wrote some songs.

"Can Gerry rock?" was the first question Bowie asked of him back in the early 2000s, when they started performing together.

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