In 2004, the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou debuted with a soundtrack consisting solely of acoustic David Bowie covers, rearranged and sung in Portuguese by Seu Jorge. 12 years later, Jorge is finally making the rounds to perform his seamless Bowie covers in tribute to the rock god’s passing in January of 2016.
In the film, Jorge plays the role of Pele, a loyal Team Zissou crew member who passes his time at sea with his guitar and his voice. The stage at Chautauqua Auditorium was set accordingly, simply with a stool, a mic, and some sea-themed The Life Aquatic accouterments. After being introduced by an “unpaid intern”, Jorge walked out dressed in his blue sailing regalia and the iconic, red Team Zissou beanie. He sat down, greeted the audience, and began strumming his guitar as the familiar “Ziggy Stardust” riff echoed through the intimate setting. Jorge continued to alternate between crooning Bowie tracks, all of which were selected from the pre-1974 era (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, etc.) transforming them to soft, Portuguese magic.
Jorge’s rendition of “Rebel Rebel” was one of the biggest song transformations I have heard to date, turning a smashing rock song into a simple, calming melody. Jorge laughed about how this was the song Anderson first asked him to sing when he first arrived on set- the only problem was that he had yet to learn it. However, after asking for a 50-minute trailer break, he whipped up a last minute version of the song that later became one of the most significant in the movie (and Wes’s personal favorite). His entire set was sprinkled with anecdotes about his “Life Aquatic” experience, spanning from the day Anderson called him with the proposition for his movie (he was playing video games when he got the call) to the touching story about how his cover of “Life on Mars” is dedicated to his father, who passed away within days of Bowie in 2016.
Chautauqua Auditorium proved to be the perfect venue for this acoustic performance, providing an intimate setting and beautiful reverberation. The performance was short, sweet, and definitely left the crowd wanting more (even after a 2 song encore). Seu Jorge’s masterful deconstruction of iconic songs using only his guitar and his voice was the perfect way to honor Bowie and his over-the-top persona.