David Robert Jones at Jones Beach - June 4, 2004
What a show! Despite some of the venue's drawbacks, the Jones Beach show was amazing. I was in Row 8, to Gail and Gerry's side of the stage, but the ground level was not sloped or tiered and I had a lot of tall people ahead of me. The venue is kind of interesting in that it is outdoors and has no roof at all, and sits right on Jones Beach with part of it built over the water. But the stage is too wide (especially annoying when you have a side seat). My other pet peeve is that although the acoustics were great with respect to the audience's ability to hear David, the audience noise never seemed loud enough - which made me scream all the louder and thus awaken with a really hoarse voice the morning after.
Prior to the show, I had a lot of fun. I managed to get to the beach in time to partake in the beach party madness sponsored by a hoard of BowieNetters. And those in attendance were from not only all over the US, but from all over the world. I met BowieNetters from NY, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Colorado, England and Germany - just to name a few! We were a motley bunch. A couple of the Englishmen stared awkwardly at the sand below their combat boot-clad feet, their Bowie tattoos peaking out under their t-shirt sleeves, and they were surveying the landscape as though it were from another planet. Meanwhile, others frolicked in shorts and Isabelle built sandcastles in her full "bunny" regalia. Among the many funny moments were the following two, which rank highest for me. First, Isabelle had not put her contacts in at the beach party, because she didn't want to have problems if she got sand in her eyes. So, imagine her surprise as she looks out onto the horizon to see someone who - in her blurry vision - looks a lot like our Sailor, coming toward the group carrying a large tub of salad. "Oh my God!," Isabelle gasped, until she realized the figure coming toward her was actually TVC15kip, a BNetter who actually does have very Bowie-esque hair! And here our poor bunny was thinking "wow, Sailor's coming to our pre-party, and he's even got the decency to bring a salad, bless him!"
The beach party wound down at around 7:00 p.m., and we all shook the sand off us and walked to the venue, which was about two blocks from the beachfront where we held our little bash. The weather had started to sour, and it was getting a bit nippy and windy - but luckily it did not rain. We entered just as The Polyphonic Spree had taken the stage, and I have to say I really enjoyed them. Macy Gray opened the first three shows I saw this tour, so I had only seen the Spree in Loveland, my fourth show - but we arrived late for that one and only caught one song at the end of their set before they launched into their familiar closing refrain of "the sun machine is coming down and we're gonna have a party" from David's Memory of a Free Festival. There was something very electric about Tim DeLaughter, and the strange lilt in his voice at times reminded me of David's vocal exaggerations during the Ziggy era. The Spree's songs were challenging, as they were devoid of standard song structure (but in a good way - although at times I was not sure if a song was over, or whether it was just pausing before changing direction, so I rarely knew when to clap!), and usually about sunshine, love, hope and happiness. The Memory of a Free Festival refrain suited them perfectly, and provided a nice introduction to David's set - even though the vast majority of the audience did not recognize it as a Bowie song. DeLaughter was a great frontman, and the choir section looked like it was spazzing out as its members sang their hearts out. Two days after the show, I bought The Polyphonic Spree's CD, and I really enjoy it. I'm looking forward to their upcoming CD, too, as one song - called Two Thousand Places - that they did in their set is on the forthcoming CD and not their first one. I hate to admit it, but I'm a convert to the Spree's funny little cult. Pass the Kool-Aid.
Prior to the show, I saw Bowie's drummer Sterling Campbell in the audience, hugging and kissing his friends and family members in attendance at the show. How cute was that!
Then, as the familiar riff to Rebel Rebel filled the air, David took the stage. He had on a burgundy velvet waistcoat with tails, the now-familiar crumply silver undercoat, a long green and blue tattered scarf, his black "Metal World" t-shirt, black jeans, the brown phallic symbol of a belt he wears, and gray Converse sneakers. I also noticed immediately that Earl and Gail looked particularly natty that night. Earl had on a black velvet waistcoat with tails and large shiny buttons, and Gail was wearing a bright red velvet pantsuit with a black top. At the close of the first song, David says "let's see this is 103... no, I'm not talking about my age, I'm talking about the number of shows-this is our 103rd show!"
After Rebel Rebel, David treated us to an extremely campy version of Queen Bitch. He strutted and teased. What a tart he can be! I never expected to hear this song live until I had heard it was in the setlist a couple shows earlier, and I was elated that David & Co. dragged (pun intended) it out for us.
The usually sexy rendition of Cactus was put to shame by what followed it: the uber-sexy Sister Midnight. Amazing song. At the start of the second verse, David's voice dipped down to bottom-of-the-cavern octaves as he growled "Calling Sister Midnight, you know I had a dream last night. Mother was in my bed, and I made love to her." Hips swiveling, head swooning, the kink factor was at 10 out of 10!
New Killer Star was great to hear in New York, as David's head lifted up to the visible stars in the NY sky as he sang about the "great white scar over Battery Park." China Girl was fantastic - except that some of the lame "fans" around me seemed only to come alive for that one, and to entirely miss the majesty of the more obscure gems David dished out that night.
Before the start of All The Young Dudes, a crowd sing-along favorite, David facetiously made us promise not to sing along "because I find it really annoying when you sing this one." We all "promised" and then promptly broke our promise en masse to sing our hearts out. When he sang the line "he can kick like a mule, it's a real mean team," he high-kicked at stage right-very nice. At the end, David reprimanded us "Now I'm really angry!," he growled, "you broke your promise, and you must be punished, so the next song is a new one, a slow ballad - and it doesn't even have any drums in it." He pauses, then scowls at us "that's what you get." And the band starts into The Loneliest Guy - a song I didn't care much for at first listen, but which I've come to love thanks to David's hammed up acting when he performs it. He covers his eyes, looks forlorn, and really puts on a show. This time, he picked up his silver underjacket, which he had discarded on the floor during the previous song, and crumpled it into a ball, clutching it to his chest like a small child would hold his blanket or favorite stuffed bear, as he sang the closing verse, insisting plaintively that he is NOT "the loneliest guy in the world."
Afterwards, he said that we were good during the last song, not singing and all, so he rewarded us with another oldie: The Man Who Sold The World. Haunting - and Cat and Gail's background singing is so amazing.
David then asked, in a funny child-like voice, "What were you doing in the 90s, daddy?" Then he and the band answered his own question with back-to-back performances of Battle For Britain (The Letter) and Hallo Spaceboy. Then, leaving the 90s behind, Gerry's mournful guitar sounds brought us into the 21st Century with a moving performance of Heathen (The Rays). I love Sterling's drums on this song - it always transports me to some ethereal place.
David introduced the band, joking to the audience that "what you don't know is that this rough and tumble band of New Yorkers all have their Mums in the audience tonight." He introduced Gail last, and the two blasted us with Under Pressure, after which he acknowledged her again and called her "sex on a stick." Gail laughed and took numerous bows before the extremely appreciative audience.
"Do we have any 70s aficionados in the audience?," David asked. "How many of you are getting on in age, close to my age?" A number of people applauded, including some guy in the front row that David suspected wasn't really near his age. "You're not old," he says to the guy, "you've still got blood running through your veins. But I'm 57 and I STILL have blood running through my veins." The crowd howled. "Well, this is a song from the 70s, well, at least it's a song from MY 70s," David says, and then the screeching train sounds of Station to Station fill the air. Just hours earlier, I could hear those sounds as I sat on the Long Island Railroad train heading out to Jones Beach, hoping I'd hear those same train sounds from the stage later that night. I was elated. The song was regal, played at its full 12-minute length, Earl Slick's guitar solo spellbinding, Mike Garson's piano menacing, and yes, indeed "the European Canon" certainly was here!
During Ashes to Ashes, the swirling blue lights that light up the audience made it appear as though the stars we could see in the NY sky from the roofless stadium were joined by thousands of blue-twinkling people as they stood and danced among the glitter of revolving stage lights. David looked up to the sky as he screamed "I wanna come down right now," and the open-air stadium was a perfect setting for this song about high highs and low lows.
When he started into Quicksand, I was in heaven. I love this song dearly, and hearing it once in Loveland wasn't enough. And this performance was even better than the first for me. His voice was absolutely beautiful, cracking slightly with emotion as he sang "I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought." I wasn't sinking, though. I was floating. I felt as though I could almost reach out and touch the stars in the midnight blue NY sky.
David thanked the crowd repeatedly as we clapped and cheered endlessly at the end of Quicksand. He then looked up toward the 200 and 300 levels. "Thank you, I see you!" he said, "I want you to know that I know you're here, and thank you!" Well, that brought some of the seated slackers in those sections back to life and on their feet. "Wow, you're way back there," he joked, "is it still the 80s back there?" "Well, here's a song from the 80s, then," he quipped. Sterling started into the power-drum intro to Modern Love and it was 1983 again-both in the 300 section, and up front. BowieNetter nancyh blew up a beachball that all us Netters had signed at the beach party and tossed it into the air. The crowd played volleyball with it throughout Modern Love, and I was reminded of the big balloon globe used during The Serious Moonlight Tour. The ball made it up to the stage and David high-kicked it back into the audience. What a great little 80s party we had.
As David started into I'm Afraid of Americans, the beach ball made it back on stage. He picked it up, read some of the inscriptions from the BNetters on it and, in typical Bowie fashion, incorporated the prop into the song. He placed it on his right shoulder, as though he were Atlas holding up the globe, and stooped over as though he were struggling under the weight of it as he sang "I'm afraid of the world." Our little beach ball was his "world" prop-cool! Again, more memories of The Serious Moonlight tour, as he got to his knees, still holding the "world" on his shoulders. Fantastic! And we got an extra-sexy crotch caress during the "Johnny wants pussy and cars" lyric. Meow!
He then dedicated "Heroes" to "all our families, to your family, and to my family." Everyone was on their feet, arms in the air, pleading along with David for an heroic moment "just for one day."
The first encore blew my brain. It was Slip Away, and David sang with such passion. During the first chorus, The Polyphonic Spree joined him on stage, with about ten of them at stage left and the other 10 or so at stage right. They had ditched their white robe for a rainbow of colors. Each of them wore a different color robe, and as one BowieNetter later beautifully put it, "they looked like a handful of jelly beans up there." David knelt at center stage while he and the Spree choir sang the first chorus, and remained on his knees as Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter entered from stage right along the elevated catwalk, singing the second verse while David closed his eyes and took in the song. By song's end, there were probably 24 voices singing Slip Away on that stage, and another 8,000 of us singing along with the "bouncing ball" that highlighted the lyrics on the big screen. Hmm... David Bowie can even make karaoke cool. The feeling was surreal, watching David sing about "sailing over Coney Island" and feeling as though I actually wasn't touching ground anymore.
Next came a rockin' and rousin' version of White Light, White Heat, followed by none other than Diamond Dogs. Heaven! Hadn't heard that one live yet, and I was on air. David sounded fantastic, Earl tore it up on guitar, and the song sounded every bit as raunchy and decadent as it did 30 years ago.
The slow, deliberate, and solemn drum intro to Five Years took us away from the raunch of Diamond Dogs into the sadness of a young man singing about a world in decay in which he cannot see a future beyond five measly years. Luckily, this is one of Bowie's prognostications that didn't come true. Here we all still are. And there he still is. Much more than five years have passed, yet since we are still in a world that appears imminently on the brink of destruction, the original eeriness of the song was still there, as was the wailing angst in the final repeated cries of "five years, five years..."
David's final one-two punch consisted of Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust. Call me immature, but one of my favorite concert moments is getting to scream out "wham bam thank you ma'am" at the top of my lungs alongside thousands of others! He also did a new little gimmick at the end of Ziggy... he walked up to the microphone as though he would deliver the final "now Ziggy played guitar" bit, but then looked away, almost in disgust and slowly exited, head down, from stage left. The crowd hollered and cheered as Bowie walked around the back of the stage (which we could see him doing through the semi-diaphanous black backdrop) and re-entered at stage right. As he reached the microphone, he splayed his arms and sang "and Ziggy plaaaaaayed... guitaaaaaaar."
It was over. It was magic. And it was 42 hours since I had had last slept - thanks to having taken the red-eye flight to NYC the previous night. So I didn't join the BNet crowd that went to a bar called The Magician that night, but I did get to ride in a van full of 12 people going into Manhattan. There were four people seated at the back seat, with TVQueenBitch reclining over the top of them. Then there were four ore of us in the middle row-the two on the sides with only a single ass-cheek on the seat, the driver, and a guy in the front seat with Isabelle still in her bunny suit on his lap. We got some priceless looks at stoplights in Harlem. You could almost see the thought bubble over the heads of one car-load of young, black men: "Boy, white people are getting crazier every day!"
June 14th 2004.
TO CLOSE WINDOW