Looking and sounding like David Bowie

Paul Roberts was lead singer of punk-New Wave veterans The Stranglers from 1990 to 2006.
Paul Roberts was lead singer of punk-New Wave veterans The Stranglers from 1990 to 2006.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

British singer Paul Roberts will perform the late pop icon's best-known songs

British singer Paul Roberts, the former lead singer of punk-New Wave veterans The Stranglers, has been enamoured with pop icon David Bowie ever since he was a child, when he saw the latter perform on television.

As he grew older, many people told him how much he reminded them of Bowie, who died of cancer in January this year.

"The pressure of being told that I look and sound like David Bowie all of my life became a force," he says in a recent interview with The Straits Times. "And then a few people asked me to do something and then I just decided, it'd be crazy not to do it. A lot of people are saying to me, 'You're the guy to do it.'"

From tonight to Saturday, Roberts will stage nightly shows at Marina Bay Sands' Ce La Vi to perform Bowie's best-known songs, from old hits dating back to the 1960s to tunes off his last and most recent album, Blackstar, which was released just before the singer died.

While Roberts has done closed- door previews in London, the show, titled Let's Dance - Paul Roberts Sings David Bowie, is making its official debut in Singapore.

He acknowledges that Bowie has a passionate fan base who would be all too ready to criticise any other performer attempting to play their idol's songs. But he stresses that the show is about Bowie's music, not about Roberts.

  • BOOK IT / LET'S DANCE - PAUL ROBERTS SINGS DAVID BOWIE

  • WHERE: Ce La Vi, Marina Bay Sands, Tower 3, 10 Bayfront Avenue

    WHEN: Today to Saturday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $120, $135 and $155 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555). Tickets come with one cocktail, wine or soft drink

"That's part of what you do as a performer, you're always judged, doesn't matter what you do. You might as well throw yourself into the fire, it's fine. If you come to the show expecting to see David Bowie, he's dead I'm afraid."

More than just about Bowie's music, the shows celebrate the late star's reputation for taking risks in his career and not being afraid to stand up and do what he felt was right, he adds.

"I regard it as a homage and a celebration of pretty much 40 years of amazing music and an amazing person and an amazing personality. Someone that we need to remember all of the time."

If Roberts has his way, the Bowie shows will not end here; he has plans to extend the show into a longer musical, complete with a narrative, and perform it all over Europe.

While Roberts has been performing and writing songs since his early 20s, his most high-profile gig to date has been his stint with The Stranglers.

He replaced the band's founding guitarist/vocalist Hugh Cornwell in 1990 and left the band in 2006. He sang and wrote on five of their albums, including Stranglers In The Night (1992) and Norfolk Coast (2004).

"I was being marginalised as a writer. When you are trying to express yourself, you cannot be marginalised, you cannot be tied up so you have to go," he says of his exit from the band.

Roberts, who has also done shows where he performs songs by Frank Sinatra, now writes, records and releases original music both under his name and with another band, Soulsec.

"I've been wanting to write some modern classical records for years, using modern instruments, but creating a big movement across a couple of hours."

He has also had several acting roles in theatre, including in a 2008 cabaret/musical, The Art Of Love.

His ideal acting role is another British icon, albeit a fictitious one.

"Everybody called to say I should be the new James Bond. I used to do a fun show band called Double O Seven just for a laugh and I did all these press shots and everyone went, 'Wow man, you really look hardcore'. And I love James Bond, I want to be James Bond and live in hotels."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Looking and sounding like David Bowie'. Print Edition | Subscribe