Tickets sold out for David Bowie tribute concert in US as sales of his albums soar

Screengrab of David Bowie's music video, Lazarus.
Screengrab of David Bowie's music video, Lazarus.PHOTO: DAVID BOWIE/YOUTUBE

NEW YORK (REUTERS, AFP) - Rock legend David Bowie will be honoured with a concert at New York's Carnegie Hall that was announced eerily just as the world discovered he had died, and as sales of his albums soared.

The March 31 concert will feature performers influenced by the trailblazing British artist, including Cyndi Lauper, the pop singer whose flamboyance made her a 1980s celebrity, and Perry Farrell of alternative rock giants Jane's Addiction. News of the concert was released early Monday as previously scheduled with the launch of a special website for the charity concert.

Moments later, Bowie's management made the shock announcement that he had died on Sunday at age 69 following an undisclosed battle with cancer.

Mr Michael Dorf, who runs the City Winery bar and concert venue in New York, said he had been organising the concert for six months.

"A sad coincidence. DB (David Bowie), may God's love be with you!" he wrote on Twitter. Tickets quickly sold out to the concert, for which Bowie's longtime manager Tony Visconti will play as part of a house band.

Other performers will include soul singer Bettye Lavette, English alternative rocker Robyn Hitchcock and United States indie rockers The Mountain Goats.

It was not immediately clear where Bowie died, although some media reported he passed away in New York, where he had been living. There were also no details of what form of cancer he suffered from, or on his funeral arrangements.

He died two days after releasing Blackstar, which won some of the best critical reviews of his career.

He had kept a low profile after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004. It was not widely known that he was fighting cancer.

"Look up here, I'm in heaven," he sings from a hospital bed in a video for Blackstar's first single, Lazarus.

The video, showing him lying in a hospital bed with bandages across his eyes, and singing lyrics that after his death, took on added poignancy.

"I've got scars that can't be seen. I've got drama, can't be stolen. Everybody knows me now. Look up here, man, I'm in danger. I've got nothing left to lose," Bowie sang.

Visconti wrote on his Facebook page on Monday: "He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it."

Even close friends did not know that Bowie was ill but a statement on social media said he died peacefully next to family "after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer."

Brian Eno, who worked with Bowie on his legendary Berlin Trilogy of albums, said that Bowie sent him an email a week ago that was typical for its wordplay and invented names.

"It ended with this sentence: 'Thank you for our good times, Brian. They will never rot.' And it was signed 'Dawn,'" Eno said in a statement to the BBC. "I realise now he was saying goodbye."

Sales and streaming of Blackstar and Bowie's older albums soared on Monday, rising to the top of Apple's iTunes charts in the US and Britain. Streaming service Spotify said streams of Bowie's music were up 2,700 per cent on Monday.

Even before the death was announced, the music legend had secured another No. 1 chart hit in Britain with Blackstar.

"As the sad news of David Bowie's death broke this morning, the iconic singer's new album Blackstar is charging to No. 1 this week," OfficialCharts.com said in a statement. "The legendary star's 25th studio collection takes an early lead on today's Official Albums Chart Update with combined sales so far of 43,000 - 25,000 ahead of his closest competitor."

On Amazon's British website, Blackstar was the No. 1 bestseller while iTunes said a collection of Bowie's greatest hits was the fifth-best selling album.

Blackstar, co-produced by Visconti, features only seven songs, but critics praised the latest work, with Britain's Guardian newspaper calling it "a spellbinding break with (Bowie's) past".