This post is the beginning of a new series here at Media Decay that will be almost like a recommendation area for concerts. Basically it’s writeups of some particularly special concerts I’ve either attended or heard. One feature of these is that I’m going to do my best to include at least some audio from the shows in these posts, although if a show is available commercially this will be more complex. I hope you enjoy the first installment of this series and come back for more. It should be monthly. Click a song title to stream that song.
The first installment is all about David Bowie. A consummate showman and the definition of rock star, I’ve managed to see him live twice before he retired from music (if you didn’t know Bowie is retired from music due to his heart being fucked). The very first time I got to see him was this show, perhaps the best concert I have ever experienced (and I’ve been to a lot of concerts).
The date was January 9th 1997. The place NYC’s legendary Madison Square Garden where many years before Bowie had already put on one of the greatest shows of all time that would be released as the movie Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. This show was to celebrate the legendary rocker turning 50 (his actual birthday was the 8th). As a way to celebrate this milestone he decided that he wanted to share the stage with acts that he’d influenced and who had influenced him in return. We’ll get to who exactly that was in a minute.
The show began with a then pretty unknown Placebo opening. If I remember correctly it was about a 30 minute long set. They were alright, but mostly ignored. Then pretty shortly after they left the stage the lights went out and out of a cloud of smoke like a god appeared the man himself to an odd ghostly soundtrack. This was during the Earthling period so there was a lot of stuff from that played but it wasn’t about his latest album, it was about all of his work. The show opened with Eartling’s Little Wonder, a great tune that was Bowie playing with electronica. He then did Hearts Filthy Lesson from the Seven soundtrack before bringing out the first guest.
Frank Black of Pixies fame. Frank shared singing duties on Fashion and Scary Monsters. Already this could be considered a great show and it had barely begun. Frank Black on Scary Monsters was pretty great. Fashion was a little more awkward.
After that he brought out The Foo Fighters to do Hallo Spaceboy. When I mean he brought out the Foo Fighters, he really brought out the whole band, while his band still played. Also Dave Grohl chose to sit in on drums, leading to 3 drummers playing at once, making a massive wall of rock. This song has never been better. Dave Grohl actually was playing so hard he popped his snare open after the first hit.
After that sonic assault, all but Grohl left the stage. Grohl played guitar for Earthling song Seven Years In Tibet. A little trivia, shortly after the end of Nirvana Grohl toured with Bowie as his drummer for a little while, due to Bowie being so impressed with his Nirvana playing and particularly the handling of Man Who Sold The World on Unplugged. So it is odd that the very next song after Grohl left the stage was The Man Who Sold The World, done without any guests.
After that he brought out Robert Smith from The Cure to do The Last Thing You Should Do with him. Smith also joined him for a beautiful rendition of Quicksand.
A few songs later it was time for his next guests. This time Sonic Youth joined to play I’m Afraid of Americans. He followed that with a few other songs, most notably a really incredible version of Under Pressure featuring his beautiful, bald, shoeless, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey doing the Freddy Mercury part and slaying it. After a rousing version of Heros he brought out the biggest guest yet. Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground, who he introduced as the king of New York.
Reed shared the stage for not only Queen Bitch, but Reed’s songs I’m Waiting For The Man, White Light/White Heat, and Dirty Boulevard. This was just great.
Bowie continued solo for Moonage Daydream and then his wife Iman came out to sing Happy Birthday and give him a cake.
But this show wasn’t over yet. Bowie had one more guest to bring out. For the first encore he brought out Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan performed All The Young Dudes and Jean Genie.
To be honest I’m not a big fan of Corgan’s and he sang obnoxiously on these songs, but they were still pretty great. After that there was a second encore. It was Bowie sitting solo on stage and doing Space Oddity. A perfect ending to a perfect night.
- Little Wonder
- The Hearts Filthy Lesson
- Scary Monsters
- Telling Lies
- Hallo Spaceboy
- 7 Years in Tibet
- The Man Who Sold The World
- The Last Thing You Should Do
- Battle for Britain
- The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)
- I’m Afraid of Americans
- Looking for Satellites
- Under Pressure
- Queen Bitch
- I’m Waiting for the Man
- Dirty Blvd
- White Light/White Heat
- Moonage Daydream
- Happy Birthday
- All The Young Dudes
- The Jean Genie
- Space Oddity
Shows don’t get much better than that. Bowie was at the top of his game this night and the performances were all spectacular. Also the entire thing was filmed for a Pay Per View special that aired a few months later, which is why the audio is so good. The special also included 2 songs not performed that night I Can’t Read and Repetition. If you have a video of this special I would kill to get my hands on a DVD. Hell I can’t even find a VHS. The good news is that I have the full audio of the show and it’s here for you to grab:
The next time I saw Bowie was on his Reality Tour, which coincidentally they just announced they’re putting out on CD in January and you can pre-order through Amazon right now: