David Bowie live 1964-2004
David Bowie's most important concert of the 1st US Ziggy Stardust Tour (September - December 1972) was his debut at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall on Thursday 28th September 1972. Carnegie Hall was where The Beatles had performed two concerts in February 1964 and for Bowie this was to be his third concert in the US, after two earlier warm-up concerts in Cleveland and Memphis.
In September 1972, David Bowie was still very much an unknown quantity in the US. None of his singles or LPs had yet appeared in the US charts. To succeed in the US rock market, it was very important that Bowie succeeded in New York. As such there was very heavy promotion of the Carnegie Hall concert by both MainMan and RCA. Even the cast of Andy Warhol's play Pork were employed to distribute tickets to New York's large and influential counter-culture, most of whom had never heard of David Bowie.
With so much riding on this one performance, Bowie was described as being very nervous about being in New York, where he would also meet the national press for the first time. David and Angela met with Newsweek's music editor (a Newsweek article appeared a week later), and on the night before the concert Bowie had a dinner interview with New York Post's Alfred Aronowitz (an article appeared after the concert called "The Super Pop Event"). After the concert David and Angie were interviewed by Timothy Ferris (Rolling Stone) for the cover article appearing on the 9th November 1972 called "David Bowie in America".
An interesting visitor that Bowie received while in New York at this time was a drugs dealer who had read about the concert in the New York Times and had caught the first available plane from South America to make the concert (reportedly with pockets full of cocaine). He had been a classmate with Bowie at Bromley Technical High School! Bowie would later write "Panic in Detroit" and model "the man who looked a lot like Che Guevara" after him:
"I know who I associated with that character. It was somebody who I used to go to school with who ended up as a very big drugs dealer down in South America. And he flew into see one of the shows and re-introduced himself. I don't believe it! - I said - Is this what you are now!? He was the full bit with the clothes and the piece and everything and I thought - My God! - Him?" - Bowie
The concert itself very quickly became one of New York's social events of the year and tickets sold out very fast. Andy Warhol was only able to get two tickets. It was even reported that Ahmet Ertegun, an Armenian diplomat's son and President of Atlantic Records, was unable to get a ticket at all.
When Andy Warhol was asked if he was going to see David's debut concert at Carnegie Hall, he said "I think I might...I hear he has red hair now. Did he have red hair before he saw my play?"
On the evening of the concert, a Klieg spot-light was positioned outside the hall, its powerful white beam playing the sky and nearby buildings as if for a Hollywood movie premier.
The slogan on the Carnegie Hall marquee simply read "Fall in Love with David Bowie."
Hundreds of curious spectators milled outside the Hall, some checking out "the scene" and some desperately hoping to get a ticket. Such was the demand that scalpers were able to get between US$30-$50 for the $6 face value tickets outside the theatre.
A "Who's Who" of celebrities attended this concert including Truman Capote, Todd Rundgren, actors Tony Perkins & Alan Bates, Lee Radziwill (sister of Jackie Kennedy), Andy Warhol and the New York Dolls (with their respective entourages). There was also a very large press turnout. Every one of the British music papers was represented. RCA announced that more than 400 applications had been made for the 100 press passes available for this concert.
However, there was also the suspicion that many of the audience had been "planted" by RCA and Mainman in order to help ensure a successful concert. While the other Ziggy Stardust concerts on this tour netted about US$20,000 each, according to Bowie's manager Tony De Fries, there was no financial return from the Carnegie Hall concert because it was largely a "paper audience" - so many tickets had been given away that it made no profit at all.
Singer Ruth Copeland opened the concert - but most people ignored her set - preferring to stay in the Carnegie Hall lobby and bar - and some only rushing back to their seats at the last minute when the Clockwork Orange theme was played.
Future author Eric Van Lustbader was there is his earlier role as a rock reporter and the following extracts are taken from an article on Bowie's entire career that he would write in 1976.
"The Hall fills up slowly. Most people are still at the entrance to the bar, all the way back up the aisle. There you can see them milling in the corridor within the blue-white haze of smoke. Glassy eyed, furry tongued, sequined and bejeweled, the men with lacquered finger-nails, the women with choppy, carrot-orange hair. Ziggy is just moments away. And Ronno the Electric, they also think of you, those who stand and wait, drinks in their hands. One glimpse, now and again, the odd issue of Melody Maker or the New Musical Express, clutched tightly, and opened to photo spreads of the current Stardust Show snapped as it occurred somewhere in the hinterlands of England: Slough or Wolverhampton. Magic words of places never actually seen. The last of the girls and boys rush to their seats as the intermission lights go down and the rustling of the crowd is like the insistent sweep of insects through a field of wheat....."
At 9pm following a taped introduction from "A Clockwork Orange", Bowie and the Spiders made their entrance to a standing ovation from the audience. "Hello," said David Bowie...." starting his 90 minute set.
Bowie was initially dressed in a multi-coloured jumpsuit and would make one more costume change (to a gold and black checkered jumpsuit) halfway through the concert. In addition to the white strobe light which was used for the opening number, two more strobes (coloured red) were used to highlight David's face so that the audience could see his expressions change with every musical moment.
Bowie was very frightened that he was going to physically break down during this concert due to a 48 hour influenza bug that he and some of his entourage were suffering from. However, the concert was very successful despite this and few people noticed that it impeded his singing or stage theatrics. Timothy Ferris (Rolling Stone), though, due to Bowie's flu, described the show as only a "pallid imitation" of those he had seen earlier in Cleveland and Memphis.
It was reported that it took a while for Bowie and the Spiders to build momentum but they were soon in stride and during "Starman" there were accounts of some of the audience (including Angie and Cyrinda Foxe) dancing in the aisles.
When Bowie introduced his song Andy Warhol he had a smile on his face, realizing that Andy Warhol was in the audience. This is "for all the blondes in the audience" he said. After about seven numbers Bowie and Mick Ronson perched on stools for the acoustic numbers which included Jacque Brel's My Death - which some mistook for Port of Amsterdam. He introduced My Death with the words: "We are going to cut some of the acoustic numbers down because I'm having a little trouble as you can hear, I may not finish this one...This is by Jacques Brel"
Before he sang Waiting For the Man Bowie told the audience "This is like bringing coals to Newcastle" - a reference to his next two songs being written by New York's own Lou Reed. Trevor Bolder's bass amplifier blew out during White Light, White Heat but the group kept going.
A five minute standing ovation was accorded Bowie before he and the Spiders returned for Round and Round. Ellen Willis of the New Yorker was seen standing on her chair enthusiastically applauding at the end of the show. Bowie finished with a smile, and a sincere "thank you" to the audience.
"Sound. Its swells like the booming of surf on a deserted shore. Ziggy and the Spiders. And there's Ronno, on his knees in front of the idol whose fame Bowie covets. The sexual movements are explicit and everybody is happy because it is happening just as it was reported by NME. Carnegie Hall is for a moment Wolverhampton. You can't fault the music. Or the group. They play hard, muscular chords, sharp and choppy, the tempo a futuristic quick-step that induces the adrenaline to flow. And Bowie as Ziggy cries to the crowd, head back, sweat running in glistening rivulets down the creases of his thin neck, staining his uniform. Put Your Space Face Close To Mine, Luv. Ronno rips off the chords. It's the first Bowie show with real power..." - Eric Van Lustbader (1976)
Lisa Robinson - Review in America (29 September 1972):
Andy Warhol could only get two tickets and wasn't allowed backstage and Ahmet Eretegun couldn't get tickets at all and Geri Miller, the girl who jumped out of Mick Jagger's birthday cake, barely got one ticket to get inside Carnegie Hall. It was David Bowie's first New York concert and RCA was acting as if it was Elvis all over again.
Every groupie - male and female - every determined scenemaker and "tastemaker", every member of that Mafia-infested rock-drug-trash set that follows chic was out in full force last night. The crowd inside the bar at Carnegie Hall before Bowie went on looked as if it had been left over from last years Kink's party. With everyone trying to outdo each other with feathers and glitter, capes and silver platform boots and plumbed hats and afro wigs all colours of the rainbow, those who stood out refreshingly in that crowd were the ones in suit and ties. I'm sorry my dears, but the sixties are OVER.
But the concert ... well, that was something else again. David brought a Rock n Roll show to New York City and it was a triumph. He has a lot more fans here than one might have thought - because it was apparent from the moment he stepped foot onstage that the audience had been waiting for him for a long, long time.
There was an element of his audience here that I can only compare to the audience of Laura Nyro. Laura gets a lot of unattractive, neurotic girls who come to worship at the alter of her art and fantasize - adoringly. It would seem that in addition to some of the drag queen attempts - David may get Laura's male counterparts. Never you mind, they are a fiercely devoted audience - even if it is rather disconcerting to sit next to some bloated, bearded, bespectacled boy who keeps screaming "David, David You're beautiful!"
He was too. Wearing first the red, beige and blue print jumpsuit and then changing into a gold and black quilted number, David looked gorgeous. I really don't think that there is anyone around who is quite so ... extraordinary looking .. the hair, the way he moves around the stage, and especially the way he's got his music together - all of it just really works.
They did essentially the same show that I saw them perform in England - numbers from Ziggy Stardust: "Hang Onto Yourself", "Lady Stardust", "Moonage Daydream", "Five Years", "Starman" and my favourite "Suffragette City" (WHY wasn't THAT one a single?) From the Hunky Dory LP David sang "Changes", "Life on Mars?", "Queen Bitch" and "Andy Warhol", which surprisingly enough, kids have been screaming out for during all the concerts on the tour so far. I wonder what went through Andy's head as he sat in Carnegie Hall listening to David's tribute to him.
Between the electricity David's sang a few acoustic songs. He explained that his voice was in a bit of trouble because of a 48-hour virus, but except for a few of the high notes it sounded quite alright to me.
But the high points of the show were definitely the Rock n Roll numbers. The kids cheered the beginnings of each one as if they had memorized the albums, and all throughout the concert, guards had to clear people out of the aisles, and stop them from rushing up to the front of the stage. Girls and boys let their legs hang over the balconies, mobs of people were standing in the back, the rafters were filled. Oh, and yes - at one point Mrs. Angela Bowie danced in the aisles with Mrs.Cyrinda Foxe, one of our more flashy and attractive girls around town.
If David was annoyed at being upstaged momentarily by his wife, he didn't show it .. but it would have be fun if lots of people jitterbugged in the aisles. The guards, not realizing that the audience is, after all, part of the show, and the dancers were, after all, all in the family, cleared the aisles once again.
A word about Mick Ronson. He's incredible. I can't remember when so many people actually said that they enjoyed a guitarist so much. It's certainly been a few years since it just hasn't been a bloody bore sitting through a guitar solo. Mick's solos, even with the strobe lights, were brilliant. Actually the strobe lights weren't even that corny because the music was great. Plus - Mick is a great beauty and developing into quite a star on his own. That image is helped when David commits a sexual act on him ... mmmmmmm ... and Mick walks around like a proud little peacock. That particular sexual act worked better when I saw it in England by the way, somehow in New York City it was sort of ho-hum, and there were merely embarrassed smiles all around. I think it just hadn't been worked up to properly this time.
David Bowie came over to the United States with eight concerts booked. Since he has been here, he has been offered and is considering 17 more, so Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Denver, St Louis, Oklahoma City, Nashville, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Seattle, Louisville, Indianapolis and Dallas, may get to see David and the Spiders as well.
Alfred G. Aronowitz - New York Post (29 September 1972):
"It was the super culture event of the season" says my friend Tattler Bob. He is talking, of course, about David Bowie’s New York debut at Carnegie Hall last night. I went to the Grateful Dead concert myself, but not out of any disrespect for David. I just don’t go to Carnegie Hall. The house manager and the assistant house manager were rude to me once too often and a letter of half-hearted apology from Isaac Stern, the Carnegie Hall President, didn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.
And so I missed the super pop culture event. Too bad. I would have liked to see David perform. Maybe I’ll catch him in another town. We had dinner together the other night and there’s more underneath his dyed orange hair than mousey–coloured roots. But then that’s another story. RCA has invested a couple of tons of money into trying to build David up as the super-talent phenomenon of the 70s and the glitter at last nights show reflected the shine of that money.
"Tickets are harder to come by than for a Rolling Stone concert" says Tattler Bob. The Tattler has become well-known on the rock scene for the controlled awe in his hyperbole. "There were guys with faces painted with silver so thick that you would need a pallet knife to clean it off. There were chicks with see throughs, with pasties, with feathers. There was the brigade of indeterminate sex. There was Tony Perkins and Todd Rundgren and Alan Bates and Andy Warhol and Lee Radziwill. All the heavy agents were there. All the heavy rock critics."
Well Bob, I know you didn’t mean to slight me – but then I have respect for hyperbole, too. There are those who say that David Bowie and his group are destined to become the world’s greatest rock band.
"Bowie came on in a blinding haze of lobsterscopes flashing into the eyes of the near demented audience" Tattler Bob says "Dressed in red carrot-top hair, red boots and a multi-coloured jump suit. Bowie carried an electrified acoustic guitar. His sidesmen came from the same tailor. The drummer had bleached blond hair and a gold jump suit. The bass player had long dyed white sideburns down below his neck. It was a fashion show, on and off the stage."
Tattler Bob is a severe critic. I do not always agree with him and find that his eye is sometimes quicker than his ear. For the first two numbers he thought it was loud, boring rock. During the fifth number, Bowie announced that he’d better tell the audience he was suffering from a 48 hour virus. By the seventh number, the audience was starting to get off behind the music. Tattler Bob wrote in his notes.
"Maybe I’m not reacting because I’m not stoned. Are they applauding the image or the musician?"
By the eight number, the Tattler found himself digging the music but still trying to find a rationale for disliking Bowie. "No dominant personality emerges" he wrote "like Mick or Rod. Bowie's record albums are better than his live performances. He does not stand out among his band the way a star should. He does not have the power to create and command the frenzy that Leon Russell does. Certainly David is a far superior musician and composer to Alice Cooper. His voice is better than Alice's and 100 other rock performers. But all the floral stage effects, the makeup, the costumes do not cover up the hard facts that he is an unarresting in-person performer. It is not freak, fag or far-out rock. It is an excuse to infuse basic theatrics to cover up a lack of dominant stage presence, the dominant personal bravado that can sweep you to heights of ecstasy and madness."
Tattler Bob says the heavy rock critics present produced no consensus. They ranged from great exuberance to downright hate. Lee Radziwill thought it was fabulous. Andy Warhol thought it was the best thing since Kitty Hawks.
By the 12th number, Bowie and his entire band had changed costumes. Tattler Bob looked around and noted that some people in the audience had David Bowie haircuts and dyed hair as well. The man next to Tattler said that this was going to be one hell of a rock group. By the 14th number, "Starman" Tattler Bob was dancing in his seat.
"He baffled the straights, bored the hips, delighted the stoned freaks and had flowers thrown at him " Tattler Bob says, "The 16th and 17th songs were pretty good. The set last an hour and a half. I've seen much more responsive audiences at Carnegie Hall, but the group wasn't as bad as I expected it to be."
Is Tattler Bob prejudiced? He says he likes David Bowie's records. When Bowie came out for an encore, the Tattler says, he found himself boogying. Bowie may very well turn into a superstar, but not because of Tattler Bob's critical acclaim. The most he'll say is that the band showed promise. He'd go to see them again.
please send us your comments and photos of this show
Hang on to Yourself
Life on Mars
Width of a Circle
John I'm Only Dancing
Waiting For The Man
White Light, White Heat
Setlist not confirmed
Incidentally RCA recorded this concert for the aborted Ziggy Stardust live album and while it was never released. My Death is available on RARESTONEBOWIE (1995).
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