FAN CONCERT REPORTS
(Friday 20th February 2004)
Report: An emotive review of the Sydney show(s)
By 4pm Friday arvo I was jumping out of my skin. A half hour beach run and a 45-minute gym workout couldn't satiate me. Tonight was THE night; I was finally going to share oxygen with the great David Bowie.
There was an internet fan base gathering at a pub nearby the entertainment centre, which was kicking off at 5 so I decided to head into that. Turned out being a waste of time as I mistook the hardcore Bowie fan meet-up for a Dungeons and Dragons dickweed convention. Sure, they were wearing Bowie t-shirts and the like but I couldn't convince myself that these Orc slaying retrogrades shared the same passion I do. I wasn't wearing tight black K-Mart jeans with a shimmering red shirt for starters.
My seats were good, very good. I sat down like the no-friends Nigel that I intended to be that evening and watched the venue slowly fill up. There seemed to be allot of conservatively dressed baby boomers filing into the place, this alarmed me as I had every intention of going f**king mental and didn't want to have to deal with old f**kers telling me sit down.
It was mullets galore amongst the 40-60 year-old crowd. Ironic I suppose but I wanted to see people who had intentionally grown a Ziggy Stardust mullet just for the occasion. I didn't want to see Gazza and Bazza with their Camaro mullets, I was expecting a 'Newtown' crowd not a 'Blacktown' one. Even the youngish people around me seemed untowardly geeky and uncool, like their mothers had dressed them all. I've previously stated that most hardcore Bowie fans are outsiders but this doesn't excuse them from dressing like they did at their year 6 farewell.
My fears of an evening surrounded by accountants were put to rest when my newest buddies for life rocked up. Twin sisters Jemma and Naomi caused a ruckus and a half as they catwalked their lithe frames down to my row. Jemma came as Ziggy Stardust (with an intentionally grown fe-mullet) and Naomi came as the mid-70's Thin White Duke. We got chatting and came to the agreement that the three of us were going to lift the roof off this place all by ourselves if need be. Jem gave me one of her earrings emblazoned with the Bowie lightning bolt insignia. I flippantly put the thing on completely un-aware of how rampantly queer it made me look.
The lights dim and some funky free-form jam music starts up and one by one the band members thread their way onto the stage. Jemma's fingernails are digging into my shoulder, "f**k it", I say - we're standing up. I look around and thankfully everyone else had the same idea.
Finally - HE appears. "Oh f**k, it's actually him, oh my god oh my f**king god!" There, right in front me is DAVID BOWIE - he is roughly 5-6 metres away from me, I can even make out his funny eye. I'd waited far too long for this moment, I was going to let rip.
Drummer Stirling Campbell taps his drumsticks together on a four-count and leads the band into the opening riff of Rebel Rebel, "F**king hell, he's opening with a classic!" Bam Bam ba ba ba Ba da da da daaaaaaa, I'm openly crying, laughing, screaming and singing all at once. To quote Frank McCourt, I was so happy I didn't know whether to shit or go blind. Jemma and Naomi are in state of collective apoplexy and are screeeeaaaaaaaamming like a couple of Datsun's stuck in second gear.
David grabs the mic, "Good evening Sydney you twisted motherf**kers, how the f**k are you". He maintained this linguistic trend throughout the night; it was fantastic to watch the oldies wincing with every F and C.
The show rolled through a mixture of new material and classics. New Killer Star from his latest album, Reality was a major crowd pleaser as was his cover of the Pixies' tune Cactus. I still had to pinch myself every few minutes to make sure that this was actually happening. The twins were making life hell for the old fogies around us with their incessant 'Beatlemania' style screaming. I can't wait to get a hold of the bootlegs because I know for a fact that the pair of them will figure prominently.
I would have killed for a lighter during All The Young Dudes, even though I probably would have been booted out. You could pick out the part-time Bowie fans from their reaction to China Girl, for them it was probably the only song they knew all the words to.
He gave us a time warp back to the origins of electronic music with a rendition of an instrumental number off the Low album; A New Career In A New Town. It was amazing to think that so much of what people listen to nowadays has its origin in Bowie and Brian Eno tinkering around with some of the first synthesisers in a dingy studio in Berlin. Upon its release, Low mystified the mainstream with its sparse electronica and alien-esque computerised soundscapes. Half the songs didn't even have vocals! Whilst the commercially thinking plebs walked away from Bowie at that point, some people were listening. People like Derrick May, Bernard Sumner, Moby, Phillip Glass, The Aphex Twin, Royksopp and anyone who is now anyone on the dance/electronica scene.
Unfortunately some f**kwits like Gary Numan and Steve Strange were also listening. I don't mind Numan really but Steve Strange? I shudder.
Another potential cigarette lighter moment came in the form of one of my fave tunes of all time, Life On Mars? David performed a beautiful rendition under spotlight with only a solo piano accompaniment. Tears were openly streaky down my face during the final chorus. It had been 16 years since I sat in Mr. Ross's mull laden listening room and heard this song for the first time, it broke my heart in the most pleasant way possible back then and tonight - I laid myself open and begged for Bowie to break it again. He did not fail me.
He wound down the evening with another mixture of newbies and oldies, I'm Afraid Of Americans, Under Pressure, The Man Who Sold The World, Hallo Spaceboy. The Velvet Underground standard, White Light/White Heat sent everyone spastic - it's a song he's been playing since the Ziggy Stardust days but it never seems to lose its live punch. Ashes To Ashes was another highly emotional moment, the twins and I started a side-to-side wave with everyone linking hands. If there was as many people wish, a remote control for life, I would have slammed the pause button right there and left it a while.
Finally the last song of the regular set starts up. Everyone has been following the set lists on the net so we know it's going to be "Heroes". It sounded as remarkable in person as it did on the day I had it playing on my Discman, walking through the backstreets of Berlin looking for the studio in which it was recorded. Bowie crept right out onto the catwalk and if I had the fielding skills of Ricky Ponting, I could have dived forward and touched him. I was still dumbfounded - it was HIM, the man I've listened to at least once every day for the last 16 years was now within touching distance. If the person in front of me hadn't been disabled, I reckon I would have made the lunge. For a mad moment, I even managed to convince myself that this person in the wheelchair probably wouldn't mind if I crash-landed on top of them and turned them from a paraplegic into a quadriplegic.
The lights stay down as the band walk off. We all start stamping our feet and calling for the obligatory encore. They don't disappoint when they re-emerge as they launch into some juicy Ziggy Stardust material. Five Years reminded me of Christmas morning 1990 when I received the 21st anniversary edition of Ziggy from my parents. The sound of cicadas, the smell of the beach and the sense of abject panic as my father caught me wanking in the toilet after Christmas dinner - all came flooding back to me.
I was a sweaty, stinking mess by this stage in proceedings and if in keeping with the routine of his tour thus far, we had one song to go and that song was going to be?
Ziggy played guitar - jamming good with Weird and Gilly and the Spiders from Mars..
Yes yes yes! EVERYONE knew the words to Ziggy Stardust and everyone belted them back at David as he performed a swishy pirouette by the mic stand. Everyone had their arms around the people next to them; luckily I had two reasonably attractive young ladies to cling to. On either side of them the poor girls had to contend with Crimewatch suspects, I felt bad for them so I yanked the three of us into the aisle and a further metre or so closer to David. The song, the concert, the life affirming experience was coming to a close and we wanted to soak up every sweat-laden ounce of it.
Now Ziggy pllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyeeeddd, Guuuiiiitaaaaaaaaarrrrr!!!
Bam Bam Boooooom! "Thank you very much Sydney, you've been a wonderful audience and f**k me, it's goooood to be back, see some of you tomorrow night!"
As we filed out I felt like a massive weight had been shifted off my shoulders. It's like when you have ambitions you know you MUST fulfil, things like living in New York, owning a Jag convertible, reading Tolstoy or donating a whole hunk of money to a dog shelter or something.
I simply HAD to see Bowie live; more pertinent was the experience of actually seeing him with my own eyes, not just on a DVD or on a poster. I cannot express the relief I felt then and that I continue to feel. I don't think I could have handled it if the old geezer had carked it before I got to see him. That would have been hell.
Much like Boy George's description of his first Bowie show in 1973, I walked back to my car singing all the songs in a quiet, inane falsetto. No concert I had ever seen had affected me like this; likewise I found it hard to envisage any future concert hitting me so close to home, yanking my soul from its dark inner recess and projecting out in the spotlight to mingle with everyone else.
There was one other concert with similar potential, and I only had to wait another 24 hours to find out.
You all know what happened there. Today I downloaded a flawless bootleg of Saturday night's rendition of Quicksand, if you listen closely to some of the crowd natter during the opening bars; you can faintly hear me declaring my undying love for DB.
I guess another fifteen minutes won't go astray.
(A Reality Pacific Rim Tour 2004)