The Mirror - 14th November 2003

Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Star


By Gail Ann Dorsey

COPENHAGEN: October 7 Tonight was the kick off of the David Bowie Reality tour. Yeah! We've spent so many weeks and months in rehearsals and doing television appearances that everyone was bursting to finally play in front of an audience. It made for a very satisfying show.

David's designed an incredible stage set that none of us had seen until we arrived at production rehearsals in Brussels last week. The set involves, among other things, tiny staircases with no railings, and narrow, elevated ramps that frame the stage on either side and across the back.

To me it's pretty frightening to walk around up there, especially with flashing lights. David dances and struts around on those platforms like he's taking a stroll in the park. What a pro.

In our dress rehearsals, he choreographed an opening entrance that involved me walking across one of the raised platforms, but I daren't tell him I get a little vertigo up there. I made it tonight without fainting. I'll be brave and get used to it. It's a challenge. Besides, it's exciting to make an entrance. Where else would I be having this much fun?

STOCKHOLM: October 8 This is our first "hit-and-run" of the tour. We arrived in the afternoon for a soundcheck, did the show and flew straight to Helsinki.

We opened with New Killer Star again. I have to sing these long "oohs" under the verses and hold them steady while I play the bass at the same time. No easy feat with pre-show butterflies and my heart pounding from walking across that massive ramp. That's where the yoga training comes in.

David decided to end the set on an up with Heroes instead of Heathen, which we've been using as the final number in rehearsals and on last night's show. We tried it but it felt weird. Don't think it will last.

The weather has been beautiful sunshine and, so far, David has been dealing with our little charter plane fairly well. He has always hated flying ever since I've known him.

HELSINKI: October 10 Had our first day off yesterday. The nice weather turned quite cold and rainy here. I felt like I was coming down with a cold so I found a chemist and bought some echinacea and a litre of orange juice.

Whatever it was, I felt fine today and tonight's show was good and solid. We are starting to find our footing as a band. Of course, as soon as it settles down David will always mix it up again. He gets bored, so that helps to keep us on our toes.

I called home a lot on this cheap, new internet phone card only to discover, hours before checking out, that the hotel put a 2 surcharge on every toll-free number dialled. I spent 140 in three days. Urgh! The road.

ROTTERDAM: October 15 The day for two much anticipated arrivals - the tour buses and my new CD! Our buses are the silliest colours - canary yellow and big bright red. It's as if they belong to some tropical Disney resort as opposed to the dreary motorways of Europe in the fall.

I Used To Be is my first solo album in eleven years. It's scary but thrilling. David has allowed me to sell it on the merchandise stalls - I am so appreciative of the gesture. He has always been generous and supportive to all the musicians in his band.

The show tonight was brilliant. After opening with New Killer Star we played Jean Genie and the audience went mad. David added a couple of songs to bring our encore up to seven. They got a pumpin' Pablo Picasso and a classic Changes. For me, it was the best show yet.

HAMBURG: October 16 Had our first overnighter on the tour bus and everyone hated it. It was claustrophobic and the roads were bumpy. David didn't get any sleep, so we will be back on our plane to Paris.

FRANKFURT: October 18 David decided to open with Jean Genie tonight. Wow! That was the catalyst for an unexpectedly brilliant show. The venue itself, the Festhalle, was quite beautiful. It had an ornately designed, dome ceiling and the acoustics were good, too. Apparently, Hitler once gave speeches there. Afterwards, we raced to the airport and to our trusty chartered plane on our way to gay Paree.

PARIS: October 20 The first of our two-night run here. David is truly a big deal in this city. From the fans to the press and the clothing designers, Paris goes mental when it comes to my pal, David.

He kept Jean Genie as the show's opener and it set the place on fire. He also added the acoustic version of Loving The Alien that he does alone with guitarist Gerry Leonard.

It was a hectic day getting to the Le Bercy arena. Wardrobe manager Jimmy King and I had a meeting with the wonderful people at Agnes B to pick out some additions to the tour wardrobe for David and I. Agnes is my favourite clothing designer. I feel like a star when I wear her creations. We often have wardrobe disasters. Jimmy himself once shrunk a beautiful baby blue cashmere sweater of David's. This prompted the infamous bootleg recording of Jimmy, Shrink That Shirt Again Tonight from the Hours tour in 2000.

PARIS: October 21 Difficult. David added a lot of songs we hadn't played much this tour such as Waiting For You, Days, Pablo Picasso, All The Young Dudes and Sound And Vision. Then he shook up the order a bit too. Maybe it disturbed our equilibrium, but we all felt as if we had fumbled through a tough football match we knew we had lost from the beginning. David called the shortest encore yet - Always Crashing In The Same Car, Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust.

MILAN: October 23 What a crowd tonight. There's something about a manic Italian audience. We opened with Rebel Rebel for the first time and that really got them going. It's nice for me not to have the pressure of New Killer Star as the opening song, even though I am starting to get used to my grand entrance across the high platform. David announced to the audience that our drummer Sterling Campbell had just got engaged. He proposed to his lady on a leisurely train journey from Paris to Milan yesterday. So romantic. We're very happy for him.

MUNICH: October 27 After shows in Zurich and Stuttgart, David threw some surprises into the set, like the return of Afraid and the debut of Sister Midnight. Tonight was also my favourite encore so far. A knock 'em, sock 'em round of Hang On To Yourself, Suffragette City and Ziggy. Not a dry seat in the house!

Tonight I wore the Manolo Blahnik boots David gave me last November for my 40th birthday. They are the most gorgeous boots in the world, but I'm not much on high heels for more than 10 minutes. I lasted the first half of the set, but had to revert to my trademark bare feet for the second half. David announced I had gone off during Sunday and sold my boots for drugs. Of course, he clarified that as a joke a few minutes later.

VIENNA: October 29 This was one of the best shows yet, on a par with Milan and Rotterdam. David was not particularly at his perkiest before the show, but he ended up delivering a sexy, sassy and awe-inspiring performance in splendid voice. He never ceases to amaze me. This was also our longest show so far. We played nearly 30 songs in two hours, 45 minutes. David seems to be working his way up to the three hour-plus shows.

He added my favourite song on the Reality album, The Loneliest Guy. It gives me goosebumps when he sings in that part of his range. Someone in the audience even held up a banner that read "Gail Ann Dorsey Rocks" after I sang Under Pressure with David.

In soundcheck today, Sterling began playing the drumbeat to Five Years and David actually started singing it - and enjoying it. Me, I would just die and go to heaven if we would do Young Americans one time. That has been my one request for the last eight years.

We had another wardrobe disaster today when the local laundry service washed and dried all the contents of the dry cleaning bag. My Alexander McQueen silk trousers were ruined. Morons are everywhere.

We all went to dinner with support band The Dandy Warhols last night. It was great fun. David really enjoys them, as we all do.

COLOGNE: October 31 We did our safety set tonight - nothing fancy. I'm sure that David is saving his voice for Berlin.

One event involved a rather large, plastic black crow that Jimmy bought for me today after we'd been having a bit of trivia about Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds film on the bus. David discovered it just before we went on and decided to do a Birds skit, it being Halloween.

Throughout the show, he periodically acted out the scene from the movie where the children are running from the schoolhouse and being attacked by crows. Catherine Russell (keyboards and backing vocals) and I perform the eerie song that the children sang in the schoolhouse prior to their untimely evacuation. I suppose you would have to be a big fan of The Birds to get it. It went right over the audience's heads.

We began to learn Five Years at soundcheck today, but David hasn't sung it with us yet. Fingers crossed it doesn't end up another tease.

BERLIN: November 3 Our first three-hour marathon! What a show. David always gets a buzz from being in Berlin. He has a history here and when we did Heroes he announced, "This is your song". Chills.

We did a nine-song encore including Five Years. Also, on Under Pressure the audience went completely nuts. They cheered and screamed throughout our duet. David joked, "I told you they wouldn't like you here, Gail." I always think of Freddie Mercury when I sing that song and always dig deep out of respect for the genius of Freddie, and the greatest honour in the world, to sing with David Bowie.

Monday: Manchester Arena. Wednesday/Thursday: Birmingham NEC. Nov 25/26: Wembley Arena, London. Gail Ann Dorsey's new album I Used To Be is out now.