The Glasgow Herald - 9th September 2003

A cyberspace oddity goes live worldwide

Bowie breaks new ground with broadcast to cinemas

By Lucy Bannerman

THE man who once fell to Earth was beamed across the globe last night in a unique performance which will be broadcast to David Bowie fans from Tokyo to Toronto.

Not content with being the first rock star to use e-mail on tour and float himself on the stock market, technology pioneer Bowie again made music history yesterday by beaming a live concert to cinemas around the world.

Using the latest digital technology, cinema audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh were among those able to question the rock legend and request Bowie classics during his interactive live set in London.

The Odeon cinemas were two of six UK venues to broadcast the concert launching Reality - Bowie's new album. Audiences as far-flung as Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Toronto, New York and Sydney will see the 90-minute set today due to the time difference.

Billed as "the world's first live and interactive music event", Bowie's exclusive performance used digital widescreen and surround sound technology to reach audiences in 22 countries.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the magician in motion," said John Jackson, one of many fans wondering whether clapping would be appropriate.

"Bowie is a living legend - a chameleon who is always changing - so it doesn't surprise me at all that he is first to do this," added the chef from Dumbarton.

Audiences were invited to send questions to the singer through text message and e-mail.

Marc John, a live events distributor who works with Odeon and a variety of record labels, said the performance, which will not be shown on television or video, heralded a new type of cinema experience.

He said: "Bowie has always been a trendsetter, pushing new technologies, and this is the first time someone has tried something so ambitious. It is totally radical.

"The level of technology and sophistication has only just been made available with digital replacing analogue. Once Bowie has done it, everyone will want to."

Such innovative approaches have sealed Bowie's reputation as a rock revolutionary. The star was the first to use e-mail to communicate with the media during the Serious Moonlight tour in the 80s, and the 1996 track Telling Lies broke new ground as one of the first to be widely downloaded from the internet. In 1998, he became a cyberspace oddity with BowieNet, an online project giving fans access to his personal chatroom, archives and unreleased material.

"This is another example of how Bowie constantly pushes the boundaries," added his spokesman.

Concerts by a number of artists, including Bon Jovi and Beyonce, have been beamed to cinemas before, but none has been broadcast on such a scale.

A spokesman for the Renfield Street Odeon, Glasgow, which sold out more than 550 tickets weeks ago, said: "For audiences it means that if you don't get a ticket in time, you can nip down to your local cinema and still catch the performance."

At 8 each, the live screening allowed fans who were unable to buy concert tickets a chance to see Bowie on tour. But some had yet to be convinced.

Linda Gallagher said: "At a concert it's the fans that make the atmosphere, but the cinema experience is all about sitting and having your popcorn."

Reality will be released on September 15 in anticipation of Bowie's sold-out European tour, which closes at the SECC in Glasgow on November 28.

Golden years

1969 After a series of career non-starters, Bowie released Space Oddity, capturing the Zeitgeist of the moon launch

1972 The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars created Bowie's apocalyptic alter ego

1973 Bowie turned to global destruction as the new concept of hit album Aladdin Sane

1976 The film The Man Who Fell to Earth put a new spin on Bowie's space age theme

1976 The Station to Station album gave birth to the Thin White Duke

1977 Surprise chart hit with Bing Crosby in unlikely duet, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy

1984 An early exponent of e-mail, Bowie used it to communicate with the media during his Serious Moonlight tour

1996 Telling Lies became the first track widely downloaded

1997 Bowie issued a 35m bond, making him the first rock star to float himself on the stock market.

1998 Launch of BowieNet, which allows fans to chat online with the rock star

2001 Launch of Bowie's independent record label, Iso.