The accolade of musical icon is banded around all too freely these days. But if there was one artist who really deserved the epithet it was David Bowie.

The South London-born creative genius redefined pop music and inspired generations who followed.

Among the biggest fans is Laurence Knight who indulges his love of the songwriter born David Robert Jones by performing his biggest hits on stage in the ultimate tribute – the Bowie Experience.

“I have always been a huge David Bowie fan, so the idea of doing some kind of tribute was always an attractive notion,” says Laurence, who brings his show to the New Theatre tonight for a musical journey through the Thin White Duke’s golden years from Space Oddity to Let’s Dance.

He says: “It began in 1997 when I was at music college. In the evenings and at weekends I would go out with various covers bands playing the pubs and clubs.

“Most musicians like something from David’s catalogue and we would often perform a song or two. Band members and some audience members started telling me that when I sung his songs I sounded like him and that I should do something with it.

“The idea of a tribute act had never occurred to me though, and to begin with I wasn’t particularly keen as I was writing and recording my own material and trying to perform and promote that.

“It soon became apparent, however, that although I believed in my original material, no one else did!”

In a career which saw him selling more than 140 million albums worldwide – 10 platinum, 11 gold and eight silver in the UK alone – there are plenty of Bowie gems to choose from, spanning eras which saw him reinventing himself as he leapt from art-pop to glam-rock, experimental, dance, electronica and ‘plastic’ soul. His death two years ago reignited passion for his endlessly inventive music.

“These days, there’s a tribute act to nearly everyone and most people know what that means,” says Laurence. “However back then, I didn’t really have much of an idea, so I put a band together and had a go at what I thought it was.

“It seemed to work, so I did another and then another – and that’s how it’s been ever since

“I didn’t anticipate what a ride it would be. It’s taken me to parts of the world that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to and I’ve met some pretty interesting people along the way.”

So what are his favourite Bowie songs to perform?

“It is difficult to pick favourites but some songs do have something particular about them,” he answers.

Oxford Mail:

“Lady Grinning Soul is enjoyable because of the voice. It’s a way of singing that appears on a few of David’s songs and this one is a good example. Hallo Spaceboy has always been a favourite both to listen to and perform. Fame has a message to all who aspire to celebrity and is set to a great rhythm which I find very buoyant. And Sound and Vision, which to me sounds like a sonic vision from the past – maybe the 1950s of the future.”

We can also expect such crowd-pleasers as Space Oddity, Starman, Fashion, Life on Mars, China Girl, Rebel Rebel, Golden Years, Modern Love, All the Young Dudes, Let’s Dance, Heroes and Absolute Beginners.

And audience participation is encouraged.

“The costumes I wear on stage are amazingly authentic and often there are audible gasps from the audience at each costume change,” he says. “We get smiles – which are an indication that they ‘get it’ – and obviously applause and cheering.

“At the end of the show, we do a number that people can sing along to if they wish, when an audience really goes for it, singing their hearts out, it’s so affirming. And although this might sound strange, occasionally I see someone smiling and crying at the same time, it’s when that happens that I feel we have truly connected.”

The band’s success sees them spending inordinate amounts of time on the road.

“Touring means travelling which is something I have always enjoyed,” he says. “There are times when it can have an otherworldly quality about it – I love being able to visit so many different places and people as part of my job.”

Venues have included the Royal Albert Hall.

“Just the experience of playing to a full house there was breath taking,” he recalls. “But I do have a little anecdote that makes me smile whenever I think about it.

“There was a compere for the night which should have been Jonathan Ross and so knowing that Mr Ross is a big fan of David’s, I took along a CD of my own renditions of some of David’s songs with the intention of giving it to him.

“I was outside the building when an important looking car probably transporting an important person rolled up, which I thought must be Jonathan. So I positioned myself strategically between the car door and the entrance, ready to pounce, when he alighted, but it wasn’t Jonathan but Jack Dee.”

He laughs and goes on: “Feeling a little on the back foot, I heard myself say ‘Oh, I was expecting Jonathan Ross, I’ve got a CD I was going to give him, but maybe you would like to have a listen?’ and I handed the CD to him.

“He gave me a withering look that only he could conjure, took the CD and said ‘Yeah, cheers thanks’, and promptly handed it to his assistant who looked like she had been handed something very unsavoury.

“Did he ever listen to it? Probably not.”

And what has been his favourite gig so far?

“There have been so many highlights but some have left a lasting impression,” he says. “Usher Hall in Edinburgh was one. It was a full house, around 2,000 people, and when we went on stage to start the show with Space Oddity there was a roar from the audience, which set the tone for the whole show.

“That really instilled confidence in the whole band that we had something good going on. Another one was in Copenhagen, where upon entering the stage around 2,000 people all stood and gave us an ovation – even before we had struck a note – which didn’t stop throughout the show. We have been greeted with so much warmth wherever we have performed.”

  • The Bowie Experience is at the New Theatre, George Street, Oxford tonight
  • Tickets available from