Bowie in Drizzly Seattle - a belated review

David Bowie: January 25, 2004. Seattle, WA.

Rebel Rebel - Like most of the shows leading up to it, the Seattle show began with Rebel Rebel. The crowd was into it from the start - which was a huge relief to me. During Macy Gray's opening set, most folks sat on their asses - even failing Macy's "sexy people" test, where she asks the "sexy people" to get up, wave their arms, shake their asses, and "scream so God can hear ya!" Well, God could hear our screams for Bowie, all right!

David said hello to the audience afterwards, shielding his eyes from the glare of three large spotlights fixed on him from just feet away from his face in the relatively tiny Paramount Theatre. He asked whether anyone in the audience had a pair of "shades" he could borrow. When initial audience response was near nonexistent, David incredulously wondered out loud how none of us had a pair of shades on us. Obviously, David hasn't lived in Seattle during the month of January - no need for them, mate! As if to dispel any belief that he was putting us on, he went on, eyes still shielded, "I'm not kidding, these motherf**kers [meaning the spotlights] are killing me." Finally, someone comes through with a pair of sunglasses. Bowie graciously accepts them and puts them on, looks cooler than cool in them, and gets a rousing round of applause for his inimitable cool factor.

He then promises that the concert will consist of a variety of songs, "some old ones, some new ones, some blue ones... what's that wedding saying? Something old, something new, something blue. Anyway, here's a new one."

New Killer Star - He then starts into New Killer Star, wearing the shades through the whole number. He couldn't have looked cooler if he planned the whole "let me borrow your shades" bit.

He also made fun of Isabelle Guns (the now infamous "Bunny") pretty early on in the show, but I don't recall after which song he started to taunt her again (so I'll include the details here after the discussion about New Killer Star). He told the crowd that she was wearing the same bunny suit and carrying a sign that read "Hello David" the night before in Vancouver. He also told the crowd that tonight she has a sign that reads "Hello, again, David." He laughed and muttered "Yeah, like I wouldn't have noticed you last night." He then acts like one of those talk show guests who goes on, like, Oprah, and is introduced to an entire audience by name and is able to miraculously recall everyone's name. "Let me guess," he says, hand to his forehead, "your name is... Isabelle." Everyone laughs. "I'm good," David responds facetiously.

Reality - Great song, even greater live. Having just been treated to this song in Vancouver the night before, I was glad it was still on the setlist in Seattle. I love the "Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha's!"

Fame - By now David is gonna get some mileage out of the sunglasses. Props are fun, huh?

He removes them several times during the number and suggestively sucks on one of the ends, as if pondering the negative aspects of fame as he sang about them. Very exaggerated acting. What fun to watch him basically doing mime on stage again! He also performs a couple gag bits with the glasses, making them wiggle on his face and then folding them over his eyes and unfolding them so they pop out like a cartoon character's eyes when he sees something shocking. After the song, he walked to stage left where Isabelle Guns was. "I bet I can make you laugh," David joked, repeating the first of his lame sunglasses tricks (the one where he makes them wiggle on his face). Isabelle must either have been embarrassed and not looked, or not laughed - or both. So David then complained, in the kind of tone an upset toddler would take whenever he or she is not the focus of attention, "look, look... [stomping his foot like a child] look at me!" He then did the trick where the folded glasses pop off his eyes. Isabelle must have laughed by now. I know I was. I felt I had seen him the way he must be when playing with Lexie. Very cute.

Cactus - Great performance. He always partially disrobes during this number, so that he can then clutch his jacket while singing about longing to have "something you wore." He had taken off his morning coat already, but only took one sleeve off the shiny coat underneath, dragging it around the stage as he continued singing and pulling the microphone stand in toward him. A bit Stephen Tyler-ish, and quite sexy.

At around this time, the spotlights hurting David's eyes are dimmed, he looks up in the general direction of the lights and says "The lighting man is being kind to me, thank you." He returns the sunglasses to the fan he borrowed them from. I'm thinking - hmmmm, he sucked on the end of the glasses, so this fan now has David's DNA! Maybe we can clone him now! LOL.

All The Young Dudes - "Would it be too early for me to ask you to... go out with me?" David asks before starting this song. The crowd screams, as he laughs and corrects himself: "Sorry, that just came out. Would it be to early to ask you to sing with me?" The crowd screams its approval and the band starts into All The Young Dudes, and sing with him we did.

China Girl - I love this song live, especially the suggestive finger-sucking bit. Very cheesy in a way, but silly and sexy at the same time in a way that only David can pull off. When he got to the "Oh, baby, just you shut your mouth" line, he instead sang "Oh, baby, just you shut your mouth, shut the f**k up, get over here!" And he motioned with his index finger in a semi-dominatrix manner, playing the role of the not so submissive China Girl putting her man with "eyes of blue" right in his place.

I've Been Waiting For You - The best part about this song - which I never really appreciated until hearing it live - is Sterling's amazing drumming. He pounds his heart out to this one.

At some point around this time, although I'm not sure which song it was after, the lights on the audience were brighter. David says "I can see you, too!" He then points to the balcony and says "this lovely couple - he just leaned in and said 'will you marry me and it happened at my show'." The audience half laughs and half applauds, not sure if David is sincere or putting us on. He then shakes his head no in the way one of my favorite comedians (who is a fan of David and of whom David is a fan), Eddie Izzard, does when he does his bit about how Engelbert Humperdink or George Hamilton (or somebody else who was formerly famous, I forget who) just died in a car crash in LA. The audience doesn't laugh, not sure if he's kidding or not. He nods yes, and they are silent, then shakes his head no, and they laugh now that they can safely assume it is a joke, and Eddie then nods yes again, further confusing them. David's little bit made me think of that.

Days - David introduced this song by asking us if we ever get that "nagging question in your head of 'what have I ever done for you?'" He said it was a song about unpaid debt and the thought of "I owe you so much!" Many sat during this song, but I stood in the aisle next to my seat in the 24th row on the floor along the center aisle. The audience seemed to disappear, and the distance between David and me seemed to shrink, as though I had somehow zoomed myself in right in front of him. It felt as though he was singing to me alone as I stood almost alone in a crowd of seated fans disappearing in my peripheral vision. Oh, and he actually sang the line "I pray you'll sooth my sorry soul" the way it is on the album track. In Vancouver (and other performances), he sang "I pray you'll soothe my very soul," which I don't like as much as the original lyric. So, I was happy with my little imagined serenade.

A New Career In A New Town - Before starting into this song, David turns toward Gail Ann Dorsey and Gerry Leonard and asks them if they want to do a song from Low. The crowd screams its approval, and David turns around to scold us "I wasn't asking you!" He then turns to face his band again, arms stretched out in an effort to block the audience's view, and turns his head over his shoulder and pouts at us "MY band!" Again, I feel as if he's doing his impression of Lexie. He turns back to Gail and Gerry, "How about New Career and Breaking Glass?" The audience screams its approval, although I sensed there was some hesitation perhaps by those who had heard both songs the night before in Vancouver, and may have been hoping for something different. David picks up on this immediately and turns around and laughs, "Yeah, real surprise setlist, huh?" The audience laughs. He then addresses the band. "And then we can do Be My Wife." The audience roars, as this hasn't been played in a while, and David turns around with a fakey self-satisfied look that seemed to suggest "See? I CAN surprise you if I WANT to." And David launches into what turned out to be a four-song Low mini-set. More surprises!

Breaking Glass - Great song. Love the tortured facial expression and body language as he screams "I'll never touch you!"

Be My Wife - As promised, he does Be My Wife. I'm a happy camper. I can't believe we're getting all these Low songs. Afterwards, he asks the band if they want to do "one more" from Low.

Always Crashing In The Same Car - Oh my God! He does Always Crashing In The Same Car, one of my favorite songs from Low. That was four in a row - wow.

The Man Who Sold The World - Lovely performance as always. The mournful wails at the close of the song give me goosebumps. This may have also been the song where, before starting it, David looked around for his acoustic guitar but it wasn't there at first. Then a stagehand arrived and handed it to him. He said something like "see, I ask for an acoustic guitar, and Poof! one appears! That's mime term, Poof!, you know that one don't you Bunny?" The band starts into The Man Who Sold The World, cutting David off in mid-Bunny-related banter. LOL He can be such a chatty one when in a good mood.

Hallo Spaceboy - A real rocker live. I never really got this song until hearing it live. He moves his microphone from side to side again to accentuate the echo effect while screaming "this chaos is killing me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!"

Sunday - "Everything has chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanged!" He nails all the notes. I love the lush soundscape of this epic song.

Under Pressure - Gail Ann Dorsey shines again. David called her "Dame Dorsey" at the Berlin show. I like that. Gives her a royal title, which she rightly deserves for her powerful vocal performance on this lovely song.

Life On Mars? - David hits all the high notes, and Mike Garson plays his heart out. This song is more theatre and opera than it is rock-and-roll. Beautiful.

Panic In Detroit - David sings the verses in an extremely exaggerated English accent. Great song.

Ashes To Ashes - Spellbinding as usual, especially due to Garson's mid-song piano break where he pounds out the best atonal piano notes I've heard from him since 1. Outside.

White Light, White Heat - I'm nearly out of breath by now! I've been jumping about the whole time.

I'm Afraid Of Americans - This seems to be THE song that everyone completely loses it on. Us pervert Bowie fans (come on, I know I'm not the only one!) jockey for the best view in anticipation of the crotch-grab bit. Bowie doesn't disappoint. He lifts his arms and tucks them behind his neck and gazes upward singing "Johnny's an American, Johnny looks up at the stars." He then lowers one arm to caress his chest, as the other slides slowly downward. This isn't the quick kind of crotch grab you get from Michael Jackson or Madonna. It is a slow, deliberate, furtive caress. His hand lingers there a while, and all our minds are now firmly planted in the gutter.

"Heroes" - Just astonishing. I love this reworking of this song. Many complain that it starts out too slow, or that it is not recognizable as "Heroes" from the start due to the slower start and the fact that David begins the song at mid-verse rather than singing it the way it is on the album. I just love it. The slow start serves all the more to contrast with the magnificent frenzy to which the song crescendos.

Five Years - One of my favorite Bowie songs ever. It is the first song of the encore and I'm thrilled to be hearing it again. David's voice is beautiful, haunting, and desperate. And speaking of desperate, I'm having trouble resisting the urge to storm the stage by now. Security was rather tight during the main set, but I looked around after Five Years and couldn't see a single security person on the floor for the encore. "This is my chance," I think, and bowiefanpeter (who is seated - I mean standing - next to me) and I make a run for it... well, it was actually more of a nonchalant walk, actually, but we made it to like around row four or five, standing in the aisle right in front of Bowie for the final two songs.

Suffragette City - Security is nowhere to be seen. I'm just feet away from David, jumping like I'm on a trampoline or some shit, and screaming "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am!" at the top of my lungs.

Ziggy Stardust - "Ziggy plaaaaayed... guitaaaaaaaaaaaaar!" I can see the sweat on David's face. He looks amazing under those bright, glaring lights. I know this isn't actually Ziggy,... well, not really. I was too young to have caught that show. But it's amazing the amount of time travel I seem to experience at a Bowie concert. I find myself the relatively well-adjusted person that I am today during Days, as the depressed teenager I was in 1983 during China Girl, and as the luckiest person on Earth to have had the privilege of taking a time machine ride to 1973 during Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy STILL plays guitar. I sure hope he continues to do so for a damn long time to come!

As I walked home alone after the concert, clutching my poster and tour programme, it started to drizzle. I hid my goodies under my jacket. I breathed in the cool Seattle air, and reflected on how I had just breathed in an amazing performance as well. I wanted to drink the concert and make it a part of me. Writing about it is part of how I hope to retain it.

Coming next, my review of Vegas II (Feb. 6) - David Bowie at The Joint in Sin City, baby!

February 10th 2004.