Of Cows, Elephant Men and Scallywags
(A Denver Review)
I just got back from Denver this morning. Saw David for the fourth time this tour, and fourth time ever, at Loveland, Colorado, last night.
Of Cows and Scallywags
As the old adage goes, if Loveland isn't in the middle of nowhere, then you can certainly see the middle of nowhere from there! My husband and I flew from Seattle to Denver and then drove to Loveland, all because I couldn't bear not seeing Bowie again, and because I was still miffed that I was out of town when he recently swung through Seattle again. During our 47 mile drive, we passed much green pasture and a lot of ranches - even the venue in Loveland where the Budweiser Performance Hall was located was called "The Ranch"). On the drive up, frustrated with traffic, my husband (a non-fan who had not seen Bowie live before, and felt I was "dragging" him to the show) said "I will only respect Bowie if he opens the show saying something like 'hello all you cow-poke, redneck motherfuckers'!" I laughed and told my husband that I'd bet that Bowie's opening comments might be closer to that than he thinks. He scoffed, doubting me.
Well, we finally make it to the venue, as The Polyphonic Spree is wrapping up their set (we had planned to miss part of it, but I was hoping to catch more of it than we actually did). We heard one or two songs, and then their cool segue into a repeat of the "The sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party" refrain from Memory of a Free Festival. The "choir" section was just going NUTS - jumping up and down in a crazy frenzy. I really dug that!
After long stage preparations after the Spree was offstage, Bowie finally takes the stage, resplendent in a gray corduroy-looking waistcoat with its many tatters hanging in the white backlit light. He cuts such a striking silhouette. He roars into Rebel Rebel and then addresses the audience. He first says "Loveland, Denver, you scallywags! According to Miriam Webster, a "scallywag" or "scalawag" is "a white Southerner acting in support of the reconstruction governments after the American Civil War often for private gain." Well, not exactly akin to "redneck" - which Miriam Webster defines as "a white member of the Southern rural laboring class," but real close, in my book.
He then continues with "... you rascals." Miriam Webster says a "rascal" is a "mean, unprincipled,... dishonest [or] mischievous person." And ends with the now-familiar, "...you crazy motherfuckers!"
He then went on to joke about all the "pastures and cows" he had to pass through to get to the venue! My husband and I were in stitches. Given that Bowie referred to white southerners, cows, pastures, and incestuous sexual relations with one's mother, his greeting really WAS close to what my husband wanted to hear! I leaned in and yelled in his ear "See? You weren't that far off!" He had to give Bowie his props for that one! ;)
Looking for Water... and Oxygen, too!
David joked after Rebel Rebel that he needed to catch his breath, and at several times turned to his band and had the "breathe" as he lifted his arms as if to preside over their effort to extract oxygen from the Mile-High City's oxygen-poor air. He at one point also told the crowd they ought to consider "importing oxygen." Hey, if the oxygen-poor air had anything to do with the extra breathy panting we got during Hang Onto Yourself ("Come on, Hah! Come on, Hah!"), then Bowie ought to perform in oxygen-deprived territory far more often. He even got on the ground at one point during China Girl, suggestively holding his microphone straight out over his crotch, breathing a bit heavy, and - for the slightest of moments, while he was getting up, he was on all fours taking a couple strides toward me. I was on the Floor, Slicky's side of the stage, in Row 2, and having Bowie crawl toward me just feet away left me... well, let's just say "in need of more oxygen."
Of Mimes and Clowns - and the Innate Rivalry Between the Two
At the close of The Loneliest Guy, after delivering his trademark very dramatic vocal (coupled with covering his face and eyes during a couple of the "oh's" and "not me's"), David joked that he had to watch out or he could easily "break into mime" at the end of that song. He then asked if there were any clowns in the audience, and an inordinate number of us near the front all indicated with words and raised arms that we were, in fact, all clowns! He then told us that this is why he needs to watch out and not break into mime, because clowns and mimes are natural enemies and should be kept far apart from one another so trouble won't ensue. He then stared down a fan who claimed he was a clown, and put up his dukes to do battle with the clown and win one for the mimes!
In fact, at one point when Earl moved to Gerry's side of the stage before starting in an acoustic number, David turned around and asked them "Are you ganging up on me?" The crowd laughed, and David turned around again, and in mock terror interrogated Earl and Gerry further with "You're not clowns, are you!?!"
Of Elephant Men and One Deliriously Happy Fan
An incredible highlight was a woman in the front row who held up her 1980 playbill for The Elephant Man. She first flashed it during, I think, Rebel Rebel, and David squinted at it, and then smiled and nodded in appreciation.
Security was not allowing anyone to hold up "signs" so I think the fan was told to put the playbill away. She did, for a bit, and then held it up again, with a Sharpie pen in hand. I've seen fans hold up CDs and pens at concerts before, and usually a performer will not sign anything in the performance setting. But David was touched by this particular request.
He asked the woman if he could see the playbill and she handed it to him. He held it up for all to see, asking her if it was an original playbill from 1980, and she said it was. He recounted how, prior to the Broadway run of the play, it had played to audiences in Denver who received it well and influenced the producer to take it to Broadway. He thanked the City of Denver for its positive reception of the play.
He then held out his hand to the fan, who sheepishly handed him her Sharpie - her hand was shaking at this point. David kneeled on one knee just inches before her and put the playbill on his knee as he signed it! The fan was in tears for at least the next two songs, leaning on her husband's shoulder and sobbing in joy and disbelief. She has apparently been carrying this thing around for years in hopes that David would sign it one day. His gesture speaks volumes of his kindness. This woman was a delight to watch, drying her eyes and hugging her spouse in disbelief.
And not wanting to have the rest of us left out, during the next song David mimed signing additional autographs and threw his make-believe autographs into the crowd for us to catch. Cute.
Of Elephant Miming and Great Punchlines
After signing the playbill and performing another song, David went back to the topic of The Elephant Man. He contorted himself into his "Elephant Man posture" and grimace, saying how difficult it was to convey the man's deformities without make-up or prosthetics. Then, mid-way into adopting the stance (one shoulder up and his arm dangling down from elbow, hips rotated, his face in a cross-bite grimace), he commented that it was "easier to do back then, because I was skinnier." He then recited what he stated were two of his favorite lines he could still recall from the play. One involved a statement along the lines of "I have a big head," and the other was "Please don't let Michael Jackson buy my bones!" Both "lines" were delivered in his Elephant Man voice, while he held the contorted Elephant Man posture. As he gracefully undid himself from the pose, I found myself astonished that I had watched Bowie again do mime on stage (he did a bit at the first Seattle concert in the Paramount where he mimed driving down the street while trying to impress a female passenger with the fact that his song was playing on the radio). I recalled with great vividness and affection the scene in Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, where a gazelle-like, young David did his mime sequence during The Width of a Circle. I love this man!
Of China Girls: Mandarin vs. Cantonese
David again did China Girl in Chinese to start, then cut the band off and pulled an "I told you so" on them, stating he had told them earlier that if he was going to do China Girl in Chinese, it should have been in Mandarin, not Cantonese, because "Cantonese won't fly in Denver!"
Of Pointy Hats of the Mimed and Real Variety
There were plenty of "pointy hats" - figurative AND REAL! Gerry gave Earl the "pointy hat" sign (holding his fingers over his head to simulate a pointy hat on his head) while David was introducing the band. So David stopped and explained to the audience that the sign meant that the intended recipient of the "pointy hat" gesture had just messed something up during a song (so the "pointy hat" is kind of like a Dunce Cap). Someone (a roadie?) then threw one of those multi-coloured velvet "fool's hats" (with bells on all tips) up to Gerry. Gerry donned it for a bit, modeling it for the crowd, and then he threw it to Earl as David laughed. Earl put it on and David told him he "looks dashing" in it. Earl then took it off and offered it to David, as we all shouted for him to put it on, too. David declined, saying something along the lines of "all my charisma is in my hair - if I put a hat on, I'm nobody." Funny stuff - he has claimed before that as long as he hides his hair under a hat, he can prowl about NYC undetected.
I was in heaven because he did The Supermen and Quicksand, both of which are among my favorite songs of his EVER! He said he wrote The Supermen when he was three years old! At the end, he recited some of the song lyrics as though in a poetry recital (he emphasized the line "a man would tear his brother's flesh, a chance to die to turn to mold" and the line about "minds in unithought") and he shook his head and laughed that these are the kind of lyrics one writes when one is young. He then told us he had to enunciate all the lyrics because "you should know what it is you're listening to." I love these lyrics - not sure why David thinks they're kinda "young" or perhaps a bit goofy. Sorry, David, I disagree wholeheartedly with you on that one! Lovely rendition, and Kat's Ooooh-Aaaaahs were sublime and better than butter!
Oh - and there is another "pointy hat" connection here: When reciting the lyrics to The Supermen, David messed up! He flubbed one line and said "a chance to die to BECOME mold," and then quickly corrected himself to "a chance to die to TURN to mold," at which time the first few rows of the audience gave him the "pointy hat" sign en masse! Hysterical.
At one point, David also gave a shameless plug for the fantastic Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver - where BowieNetter Emily works! He said he wanted to give us an example of just how exciting rock 'n' roll is "at my age." He said he went to the Tattered Cover (which, I think, he called the "Tattered Book" - I tell you, the man needs to carry a pointy hat in his back pocket! ;)) and bought a book about the New York Library catalogue, or some similar reference type book. The audience laughed, and David leaned in closer to us as though telling us a secret, and said the REALLY funny part is "I'm REALLY pleased with it!" More laughter!
Sadly, Emily was not working when David dropped in, but she was in the front row, arms raised in glory, as David plugged her store!
This all made me wonder if I might have crossed paths with David before the show. I was in The Tattered Cover at around noon earlier that day, where I picked up a cool magazine: Juxtapoz, an art magazine with a cover story about a recent showing of the art of Iggy Pop and the Stooges! Way cool! Anyway, I should have paid closer attention to all the men in the store wearing cargo pants and baseball hats - one of them could have been Bowie! :)
The End of A Reality Tour... For Me At Least
David closed his 26-song setlist (see list below) with a foursome of Ziggy songs: Hang Onto Yourself, Five Years, Suffragette City, and Ziggy Stardust, at the end of which he received a beautiful bouquet of roses from a front-row fan. He was ON FIRE during the encore and the crowd was in a complete frenzy! I know I spoke earlier about all the heavy breathing during the end of Hang Onto Yourself, but it was good enough to mention twice! Believe me! ;)
This is probably my last gig on the A Reality Tour - note the pathetic use of the word "probably," as I am clearly still in denial! David, thank you for such an amazing ride!
Oh, Oh, Oh! I nearly forgot! He told the crowd he hopes to be back in Denver in "two or three years." Here's hoping it's even earlier than that! But it is good to know our Man isn't planning on hanging up his stage clothes yet.
My Husband's Reaction, aka "I'm Better Than Bowie - Sort Of"
My husband's admission was: "I enjoyed that a lot more than I thought I would." He also thought Bowie's gesture of signing the playbill during the show was very sweet. My husband's kind of shy and reserved physically in public, but at my prompting, he was dancing along with me to a lot of the songs.
Other funny moments included my husband's various comparisons of himself to Bowie. Usually, he hates it when I point out to him that he looks a bit like Bowie (actually, more like a cross between what Bowie looks like now and a very young Christopher Walken - but there is definitely a resemblance there). To really get his goat, I tell him every once in a while that "If I can't have Bowie, I'll have to settle for a reasonable facsimile thereof." This annoys him very effectively. Tee-hee! ;)
But this time, he was WILLINGLY comparing himself to Bowie - but in ways where he thought he could "win" in the comparison. For example, comments like "I've got WAY more definition in my arms than him" and "if you like men with a kind of fey look, my face is more girlish than his,... but I have to admit he moves more fey than I do." :) LOL! Those were hysterical! Any time a man is giving himself POINT for feyness or feeling sad that he is "less fey" than another man, I feel my work is done, as I've never been a fan of the "manly man." My husband stated he enjoyed the two Heathen songs, Sunday segueing seamlessly into Heathen (The Rays) the most, and has FINALLY agreed to listed to Heathen after all my previously useless efforts to get him to do so.
I think we have the beginnings of a fan here, ladies and gentlemen. Although I know he won't worship Bowie like I do, I think he'll complain a little less when I stock the car with nothing but Bowie CDs and use up 95% of the (considerable) space on my new MP3 player for all things Bowie.
April 26th 2004.
TO CLOSE WINDOW