As performers, it seems they are worlds apart. Frank Sinatra was the 1950s crooner who made millions swoon with his dramatic love ballads, while David Bowie was the 1970s glam rock legend who electrified audiences with his sexually ambiguous antics and anthems.
Yet for all their differences, Aussie rock legend Jeff Duff could hear and see enough similarities between two of his favourite performers to create a show in which he swaps the songbooks of the two music maestros for one night only.
Ground Control To Frank Sinatra takes to the stage of The Studio of the Opera House this weekend and showcases Duff’s vivid imaginings of how Ol’ Blue Eyes would have coped with Bowie’s futuristic rock songs, as well as what The Thin White Duke could do with a range of Sinatra’s swooning classics.
To Duff, Australia’s original gender bender glam rock legend, the musical marriage of Bowie and Sinatra is a valid one. There are so many likes between Sinatra and Bowie, he says. With the vocals of both men, there is a very close crossover and Bowie has a similar baritone bottom end to his register. Sinatra was one of the great all-time crooners, but Bowie was billed as a crooner early on.
Visually, I love the extreme exhibitionism that Bowie had, and I also loved the conservative, stylish approach that Sinatra had. But both were very stylish men in their own rights, Sinatra was quite a lad in his time, and he had that thing with the fedora, just as Bowie had.
Ground Control To Frank Sinatra presents such Bowie classics as Young Americans done in the style of My Way, while Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon will be reworked using Middle Eastern chants, as Bowie did in the mid-1980s.
Duff says the music charts of the singers are more similar than would first be expected. One of the musicians pointed out the chords to Life On Mars are the very same chords as My Way, he says.
Duff’s 21st album, Lost In The Stars, presents a range of Bowie and Sinatra classics.
While the music of the two icons is the feature of the show, it is Duff who is in the spotlight for the duration, and he promises he will make at least one appearance in his 1970s glam rock signature outfit.
I was wearing leotards long before I had even heard of Bowie, says Duff, who has taken to the stage in such other infamous get-ups as wedding dresses and pieces of sex dolls.
It was never an expression of sexuality, it was more an expression of theatricality. The stage was never about -˜oh, I am gay, therefore I will behave and dress in a particular way’. I didn’t even know it was drag. It was just so much easier to get into a dress than find a complete male outfit to wear. I was so na? then.
Ground Control To Frank Sinatra plays at The Studio, Sydney Opera House, at 8:15pm on 19 August and at 8:15pm and 10:30pm on 20 August. Bookings: 9250 7777.