Throwback Thursday is a weekly online feature where we look back at an archived issue of the Straight to rediscover old stories and stir up a little nostalgia.
I may be a Gen Y-er, but thanks to my parents, I was raised on the classic rock of the ‘60s, ‘70s , and ‘80s. I started my list of must-see concerts early in life, as I knew that many of the bands I so enjoyed listening to were much older than me, and thus, likely to die before I’d ever get the chance to experience their music in a livesetting. (Morbid, yes, but true).
I’ve been lucky enough to cross a few names off that list, but it appears I’ll never get to see the man who sat at the top: Mr. David Bowie. Lucky for me, I can live vicariously through the words of the Straight’s resident classic rock expert, Steve Newton.
Here's an excerpt from his review of Bowie's August 15, 1987 concert at B.C. Place during the Glass Spider tour.
"At about 10 o'clock the 35,000 fans finally got what they'd been waiting so long for, and as the lights went down Bowie's spikey-haired rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar came strolling out, knocking off Van Halen-type guitar licks, while a voice from the scaffolding high above kept yelling, "Shut up!" That voice belonged to Bowie himself, who descended from the belly of a huge, translucent, glowing spider while reciting the poetic opening lines of the song "Glass Spider". Dressed in an oversized red leisure suit and matching suede boots, the 40-year-old pop star was joined by the rest of his band and five dancers.
"In no time at all, a huge throng of fans had assembled at the front of the stage, leaving those who had paid upwards of $300 for front row seats to think about other ways they could have spent their money. From across the stadium, the performers looked like insects, but thanks to two massive video screens, most of the on-stage action was visible. With Peter Frampton's inspired guitar freak-outs leading the way, the Bowie band made its way through new material ("Time Will Crawl", Iggy Pop's "Bang Bang") and older stuff ("Heroes," "Rebel Rebel") before the marathon night of rock and roll came to an end, just before midnight."
If you don’t know who Newt is, you probably aren’t a regular Straight reader. He's been a writer with the publication since the early ‘80s, so naturally my first reaction towards this week’s Throwback column was to ask him what it was like to cover Bowie’s career for so long.
AS: Your favourite Bowie-related memory?
SN: I guess my best Bowie-related memory would be the time that me and my high-school buddy Seeks went into the local record store in downtown Chilliwack in ’73 and we bought Aladdin Sane (me) and Iggy and the Stooges’ Raw Power (him) based solely on the album covers. Then we swapped, because I guess the Bowie disc was too out-there for me (at first listen), and Iggy too punk-raunchy for him. I’d like to swap him back now though. (For more on Newt's memories of Bowie, read his blog here.)
AS: The first time that you saw him live, what was his demeanor like on stage? How did he compare to other big acts at the time?
SN: The first time I saw him live was at the Pacific Coliseum, when he was touring behind the Station to Station album. He was cold and detached, clinical—in keeping with the stark, black-and-white presentation of the show. Yet he was charismatic as hell. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Most other rock frontmen at the time would move around a lot. Bowie didn’t have to.
AS: What do you think Bowie’s best album was? His best persona?
SN: Overall, song-for-song, I think you have to go with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. His amazing guitarist Mick Ronson—who I was lucky enough to interview years later when he came to Vancouver with Ian Hunter—really shone on that album. Riff city. And the rhythm section of bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey was impeccable as well. The production on that LP also ruled.
AS: How did his stage presence evolve over the years, especially towards the late ‘70s and ‘80s? What would you say his best concert in Vancouver was?
SN: He was much more audience-friendly on The Reality Tour (in 2004). But I still think the first time I saw him, in ’76, was the best. It was the seventies, after all. I was still a teenager. Concerts and albums meant everything to me. When I saw him in ’87 on the Glass Spider Tour at B.C. Place the show was just too big, if I recall correctly.
AS: If you could go to one last Bowie concert, which five songs would you hope to see him play?
SN: I would pick “Ziggy Stardust” for the glam, “Station to Station” for the feedback, “Cracked Actor” for the Ronson, “All the Young Dudes” for the Hoople, and “Heroes” for the Bowie.