Review by Bowiedowunder member Ben:
dichotomy of David Bowie visiting Adelaide is a curious one. This is an
isolated town, geographically and culturally, with a barely-there-Sunday-afternoon
One wonders what Bowie must have made of his first visit here, playing
Adelaide Oval adjacent to the massive, imposing St. Peters Cathedral.
At the time the city's most outrageous-creative-pop- figure moment was
Premier Don Dunstan waltzing into Parliament wearing pink hot pants and
long socks. Despite his ten year helm and groundbreaking legislation,
the media never forgave him.
Not that a great deal has changed. The locals are still largely old fashioned,
religious and conservative types with little demand for glitzy big name
entertainment. Show business is for the East coast and represents an unwanted
threat to the slow paced lifestyle. However, Adelaide is also a hungry
place. Poker machines have pushed bands out of traditional live venues
and most local talent head East at the first sniff of success.
Ticket scan from I_Love_DeNiro
Tonight, this hunger seemingly lured out many casual fans who, were they
offered the luxury of visiting international stars more often, may have
chosen a different, safer entertainer. This presents Bowie with a platform
to combine his classics with his newer, unfamiliar work to give the casual
fans a greater appreciation of his talent, one of the few tasks he has
The fans milling about the complex three hours before show time affectionately
call themselves the kooks. They model a visually stunning range of garments,
obviously the product of a thousand garage sales and charity stores. These
are strays, a neglected few struggling to find their place in a town that
has no real use for creative types. They are individuals rather than a
collective, and they are all charming and bond strongly through their
Later the couples roll up, late 30's to early 50's and outnumbering the
young kids four times over. Some of the kooks view them as an easy target
to criticize but the beauty is everyone can represent and claim Bowie
due to his awesome range and appeal. Whether bisexual glam rocker, suave
soul crooner or - presently - caring family orientated businessman with
morals to match, it is attractive to watch the gathering assortments and
realise just how many boundaries have been crossed and people affected
by the music.
Few knew what to think of Something For Kate, who are clearly suited to
a younger audience. To their credit Paul Dempsy has a strong voice and
great stage presence, frequently spoke with the audience and played tightly.
The violin on "Light at the End of the Tunnel" was beautiful as was the
penultimate track, a rocking cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's "Killing
Moon". The elders around me remained unimpressed though, upon first impression
likening them to a cheap REM. Personally I enjoyed them but surely there
is a more relevant Aussie example of Bowie's modern day musical offspring
Cut to this
writer's most painful forty minute stretch, during which neither cigarettes
or alcohol could calm my pounding stomach. Security offered some amusement,
letting in bloodshot coneheads sporting coke can bong. Today the contraband
is electronic recording equipment, any tool which may preserve our memories.
Memories now days come preprinted in the form of merchandise stalls. Choosing
not to give into temptation I returned to my seat.
What first struck me was the bare stage, stripped of decoration save for
some hanging tree branches. "Bowie ain' t theatre anymore" I was reminded,
although the introduction was quite well done. We see a cartoon version
of Bowie's band playing on the monitor, which slowly transformed into
real video. Before I knew it they were onstage, straight into "Rebel Rebel"
(Charlie's Angels 2 version) which was well received. He looked like he'd
stepped straight from Absolute Beginners, complete with brimmed hat, long
coat and baggy suit trousers. "Adelaide you crazy motherfuckers! How are
you? Oh, play your music David Bowie". It was clear he was his jovial
"New Killer Star" was well received, Bowie remarking "I love the smell
of Adelaide in the evening" (was this a reference to the bong smokers?
I couldn't imagine them getting away with lighting up indoors!). "Fame"
was funky with fat bass, the monitors dropped frames in time to the beat
and Bowie made the girls (and some boys) scream with some well-timed pelvic
"Well that was nice, thank you, you know we're just having a ball, just
too good". The guy couldn't thank us enough. "This is a song by an American
band who broke up, just reunited this year and we're very happy about
that". The song was "Cactus", very similar to the album version. This
was the moment I noticed Sterling Campbell's drum kit, he was pounding
like crazy and sounded awesome. Earl Slick got quite jiggy with it.
Bowie frequently joked about the audience not wanting new (post 1984)
songs, at one point remarking "It's like he'll do an old one now because
he just did a new one..... sneak out for a beer in between."
The first real surprise was "Try Some Buy Some". Hell! This sounded a
million times better than the album version, I was blown away. The guitars
especially sounded good. The lighting was all sparkly and there were fireworks
on the monitor toward the end of the song. He remarked "First time we've
played that on tour, we'll guinea pig you a few more times tonight". This
blew me away.
"We'll do something you know, but you gotta sing along" and sing we did
to "All the Young Dudes". I must say the guitar solos were spot on perfect,
identical to the original. "That was really good" he joked, "You just
made me feel unnecessary! Embarrassing when the audience is better than
you! Makes you look in your pockets. I think I've got enough for the bus
fare back to the hotel!"
"China Girl" rocked with Bowie turning his back and pretending to make
out with himself - he called it back language "I nicked that from Rudolph
"I shouldn't have got you up like that because now I'm going to do a really
quiet song" was his introduction to a stripped back "The Loneliest Guy".
Lights were down and the background monitor showed Bowie walking through
a forest (now I understood the meaning of the tree branches on stage)
but his vocals were too way loud for the track. I should state the audio
problems reported early in the Reality tour, such as Gail's backup vocals
drowning out Bowie's lead, were fixed. Actually the audio was spot on,
apart from "Days" where Gail's bass sounded fuzzy. Not good when the song's
pace kind of relies around a lively bass tune.
|Photo by Simone Metge.
Bowie pulled out more jokes: "Does my hair look alright without the hat?
I lost my jeans I usually wear so I'm wearing gardeners trousers! You
take some shears and cut them, then take some hoes up the side. Oops,
I didn't mean that". And later "These gardening trousers look quite like
zoot suit trousers, it just occurred to me!"
We thanked him and, ever the polite host, he thanked us back: "Thank you,
that was great, you're really gracious. This is one of the first songs
I got played on the radio in 1970, it means a lot to me. It's called "The
Man Who Sold The World".
"Hallo Spaceboy" followed and I must say I prefer the PSB dance version
to 1.Outside. It seemed almost tedious with Bowie on a platform, unrelenting
strobe lights and pounding repetitive drums. Bowie stayed on the platform
for "Sunday" but the smoke machine failed and he walked off about a minute
early for the outro - I could just see him in the darkness pacing about,
I think he was a little pissed off.
The band was introduced "So exactly who are we, you ask? I haven't the
foggiest, they just turned up! It's the first time we've played together"
(yes I heard people down below yelling `Hollywood'). A finger clicking
"Under Pressure" got the crowd noise up, Gail's vocals sounding eerily
close to Freddy's original cut. (After the song he called her Sharon Dorsey,
does anybody know what this means?)
|Photo by Simone Metge.
"Life on Mars" was charming, lights down and piano keys on the overhead
monitor before the band joined in. Bowie again took up guitar for "Looking
for Water" (funnily enough, the two people on my right then drunk from
their water bottles, they were so transfixed). A good sport, he threw
several picks into the audience.
"This song we've only done twice on this tour" as he introduced "Quicksand".
I went nuts but was surprised so few others cheered for this, the crowd
was just not into this song. "Ashes to Ashes" was funked up, I noticed
details like the monitors had a color/saturation/inverse effect on them
similar to the video clip. Bowie also struck poses from the video - head
drooping down from the scene in the padded cell and waiving a pointed
finger during "better not mess....." section, I really loved such attention
I never liked "I'm Afraid of Americans" but the chorus especially blew
me away tonight. This was the night's heaviest song, Sterling's bass drum
was shaking my chair and the guitars rocked. The girls were treated to
some fancy crotch grabs. "Heroes" begun oddly enough although I realise
it's impossible to properly recreate this song live with all the funny
microphone levels and synths running in and out of tune. Still, his vocal
delivery was outstanding and he kept pointing to the crowd.....very uplifting
to us mere mortals. It also drew the first inkling of appreciation from
many people around me who were just waiting for Ziggy tracks. They didn't
have to wait much longer, as the encore featured "Five Years", "Hang on
to Yourself" and "Ziggy Stardust". With all fans satisfied Bowie thanked
us yet again, joined arms with his band, bowed four times and left the
It is understandably difficult to stay enthusiastic in any field for a
long period of time and my resounding feeling is I'm stunned Bowie seems
so fresh and energetic after performing live all these years. He chooses
to let his personality create a personal experience for the audience,
not an easy thing for him to do when he performs in front of thousands
of strangers every night. All I can say is I wish I had this guy's passion.
The band was faultless. Everybody I spoke to afterwards was grinning and
although it was a shame the night passed by so quickly, it was great to
see all the happy excited people on such a buzz.
If I had to complain, it would be that we got only one track from the
Berlin albums and nothing from Station to Station, Young Americans and
Diamond Dogs. But I can't complain when I just watched the show of my
life. As for Adelaide, I'm hoping Bowie's spark will spread, even if it
only inspires some to check out stages of his career that don't initially
appeal to them. Bowie's message is that with a strong work ethic we can
achieve the reality we desire.
The Territorian Hotel: Feb 23, 2004
Before and after the Adelaide concert, Bowie Downunder members met at
the Territorian Hotel in Hindmarsh. Located near the Entertainment Centre,
this little pub provided an ideal drinking hole and great hospitality.
The pub manager made us very welcome - and had gone out and purchased
"The Best of Bowie" DVD for the occasion. Naturally, this had
BDU members drinking and singing to the early hours of the morning and
it gained some interesting reactions from the pub regulars. I recall one
guy who could not speak a word of English (only Italian) and did not know
any Bowie - until we sang 'Volare' (to us, an obscure Bowie
number from the Absolute Beginners soundtrack but for him, a very famous
song in Italy!) Special thanks to Fed Up for providing these laughs.
|Bruce, Margot and Julie at The Territorian.
South Australia 's main newspaper contained the following article the next day:
Adelaide, Feb 23. For more details, click here.