Sunday, September 14, 2008
bowie nin nissan
Anyone who follows pop music probably has an opinion on when Bowie hit rock bottom. For some, it was the all-smiles-and-sunshine "Modern Love" era.
Others think of the Glass Spider/Never Let Me Down era (which gets my personal vote).
Still others pin it on the Tin Machine experiment, or the horribleness that was his cover of the already awful "I Took A Ride on the Gemini Shapeship" just a few years ago (Goddamn, Bowie, how about no more space songs for the next ten years?)
But to be honest, it was hard to watch THE David Bowie get slaughtered by a bored and hostile teenage suburban crowd without thinking that THIS - this sad night in a tasteless shed arena in Suburban Virginia - just might be curtains for him.
Seriously, I'd rather forget this show. If Bowie's fans didn't turn up in Hershey, then they all but protested this performance.
I went to this show with my little brother and his college sweetheart, a girl he'd been with for about three years by this point, and who was just beginning to illustrate that there were signs of relative mental instability at play. But she was also a great big Bowie nerd like me, which is what led me to give her my endorsement when they first started dating.
This evening just might have been the last time I saw her, come to think of it.
Back to the show....We missed pretty much the entire damned NIN set because we were stuck in traffic on I-66, but we caught the shared set of Warswaza, Scary Monsters, Reptile, Hurt and Hallo Spaceboy. (Another fucking space song...thank you David).
Once again, the shared set went over well with the crowd. But it all went bad the minute Trent & crew left the stage. Bowie got about one song of his list out before it all went wrong in a big way. Kids in front of us giving him the finger. People leaving. An isolated case or two of people throwing things. And, one moment that's honestly kind of painful to remember....some kid ran on stage, did a lap, then smacked/tapped David Bowie on the head before leaping back into the crowd.
To his credit, Bowie took it all in stride and carried on like a total pro. Still, you could tell he was reeling; God only knows how many other dates on the tour had gone so badly.
At the same time, watching the whole horror show unfold, it was so abundantly clear just how arrogant Bowie was to even consider doing this tour. Just because Nirvana covers one of your weirder, more obscure songs doesn't mean that disaffected industrial poseur kids are going to fawn over you 30 years later....(especially if you completely tart the fuck out of it the second time around - seriously, the version of "The Man Who Sold the World" that evening was enough to make Mick Ronson and Klaus Nomi roll over in their graves).
And that's not even the half of it. The setlist was truly underwhelming, with duds like "We Prick You" and the abysmal "Teenage Wildlife" featured prominently throughout the show, while total gems like "Panic in Detroit" or "Width of a Circle" might have been just the thing to get these poseur fuck kids to pay attention. (Or not..."The Voyeur of Utter Destruction" is a pretty wild song, and that fell flat with this crowd as well).
The band was a weird fit, too. Despite the power rhythm section of Gayle Ann Dorsey and Joey Baron, the rest of the band just....well, they looked ODD. There was the phenomenally talented Reeves Gabrels, looking pretty much like rock guitar's George Costanza, there was super-pianist Mike Garson -- they guy who made SO many early Bowie albums awesome in about sixteen different ways -- wearing some awful industrial-flavored costume that just made him look old as shit; and then there was a flaming 50-year old back up singer who just looked....dammit I hate saying this....but he looked very fucking old and very fucking gay.
(Fuck you all....gay rock can be really fucking cool when it's David Bowie or Bob Mould or the Germs or Turbonegro or Bloc Party or whoever doing it. But this dude got totally Erasure on us).
Anyway, I hated seeing Bowie getting owned that way. All the while I knew that it wasn't *really* him, and that it was really that he was playing for a bunch of spoiled loser kids who didn't really have much (if any) historical perspective on music. But at the end of the day, it was his fault for orchestrating this dumb idea for a tour.
Trent woulda been kind to have warned him.