Little "Liza Jane" Turns 40
Holmdel NJ Review
Last show of the tour for me. Last show in North America. And my God did Bowie go out with a bang!
The venue in Holmdel NJ was, in my view, quite superior to that at Jones Beach the night before. The amphitheatre was recessed and had a lid, but still felt as though it was outdoors. The lid and recessed setting was much appreciated, for it was quite windy and raining by the time our pre-show tailgate party ended and the show began.
The Polyphonic Spree was amazing. Their energy was infectious, and Tim DeLaughter kept thanking David repeatedly for giving the band the opportunity to open for so many gigs. I had seats in the 9th row, center aisle, but moved into Row 1 for the opening act thanks to a very kind security guard who promised Mego and I could "mooch" until the real ticketholders for our front-row seats showed up. So we got to see the Spree next to a pack of other BowieNetters. As a special thank you to David, the Spree closed their set with an incredible version of Five Years, during which they hauled Isabelle Guns - the infamous "bunny" - onto the stage, handed her a tambourine, and placed her in the "choir" section. Isabelle looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Us Netters in the front row were going apeshit. Singing along loudly and pointing at Isabelle! Tim DeLaughter smiled at me, noting my enthusiasm for the song, and the joy on my face from seeing Isabelle on stage. Fantastic moment. Another neat thing DeLaughter did earlier was leave the stage while his band played an instrumental. He ran through the audience to a pack of white robe-clad Spree fans that were way in the back and jumping up and down throughout the Spree's act. He greeted each fan in the pack with hugs, kisses and "high fives." I really liked him a lot after that moment. What a sweet thing to do.
Well, as the Spree wound down their show with the refrain from Memory Of A Free Festival, I realized that my last show of this tour was about to start. But no need to focus on the negative. David Bowie was about to take the stage again. "The sun machine is coming down and we're gonna have a party." Indeed!
Rebel Rebel was infectious as ever. David was in great form. He seemed elated at having reached the milestone of the last US show. The atmosphere was electric from the start. When he announced afterwards that this was the last North America show of the "A Reality" Tour, the crowd simultaneously cheered for all David had give us over the months, and booed in anticipation of our collective Bowie withdrawals. Cactus was sexy as ever, and at the end of which David blew the audience a big, exaggerated kiss, and made a "MWAH!" sound as he threw the kiss our way. Sister Midnight was just perversely sexual. David's hip swiveling, deep-voiced pronouncement of "mother was in my bed," was followed by a pelvic thrust as he moaned "and I made love to her" while caressing his chest and thighs. Screams from the crowd threatened to drown him out at that point. And Earl Slick's guitar solo was smokin'.
During New Killer Star a nice security guard watched as I took a picture of David with my cheap disposable camera. He came up and whispered in my ear, "Hey, I'll let you go up close for a picture if you promise to come back." "Thanks," I shrieked, "of course I will." So I moved forward down the aisle and snapped what was, up until that time, the best picture I've ever taken of David in concert. I then dutifully returned to the 9th row and thanked the security guard again. He then warned me to snap photos covertly because "some of the guards are taking cameras." He was so nice, and really seemed to understand fandom. Who knows? Maybe he's a Bowie fan, too.
Panic In Detroit was amazing. Cat's background vocals were just ethereal. She's amazing. At the end of the song, while the crowd cheered, David started at stage right and ran across the stage, leaping in the air as he passed his microphone stand and screaming into his microphone. He seemed to be throwing caution to the wind and was more animated than at any of the previous shows I had seen. Then came a great rendition of Never Get Old, which, oddly, I had not heard live yet in any of the previous five shows. I was thrilled. Gail and Cat's singing "forever" is one of my favorite parts of this song. That, and the determination on David's face as he insists he'll never get old.
Fame was next, and EVERYONE just completely boogies to that one. Ahead of Mego and me was another BowieNetter we had not met at the pre-party. He looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s and arrived at the show in a business suit. He also arrived with three - count them - three fabulous women of about the same vintage, each adorned with a pastel pink or lavender boa. They looked smashing! And I could tell they were gonna rock as the man removed his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, drank a beer, and flirted like a teenager with the woman near him (whom I presume was his wife). During Fame they were literally out of their seats and dancing in the aisle. It was fun to watch them act like kids. David also really camped it up during Fame. He did the familiar mime bit where he pretends to sign autographs and toss them into the crowd. But this time, after miming the autograph signing, he mimed holding a compact with one hand, as he mimed applying lipstick with the other, and then he smacked his lips when he was done and closed his imaginary compact. Dame David has still got it.
David then started into All The Young Dudes but almost immediately cut off the band, announcing "it just occurred to me, but maybe you don't know this one." The audience laughed. David then "threatened" that he'd play "something new" before laughing and saying he'd play All The Young Dudes after all but only if we promised not to sing in the chorus. We promised, we broke our promise, and David laughed and chastised us afterwards about how we suck at keeping our word. "Boy, you really know how to break a promise, don't you!," he teased. "Now I'm really pissed!," he growled. "I asked you not to sing, and what do you do? You sing your throats off!" The audience laughed and cheered as David continued berating us: "Don't take me on!," he warned, "I'll win, look at me!" As he said "look at me" and pointed to his body, the audience hooted at him like he was a piece of meat. "I'll win, I'm higher," he joked, noting that he was on an elevated stage. Then he sniffs the hashish-laden air around him and says, "no, I take that back," chuckling. He then tells us he's going to "punish" our bad behavior with an 80s song: China Girl.
After China Girl, he did The Loneliest Guy, during which a number of people ahead of me sat down. Me, I could never sit during a Bowie show. So I stood, solitary, as though he were singing to me alone. But my enjoyment of the moment was cut short by a security guard who had accosted BowieNetter nancyh, taken her out of the front row, brought her next to me in the center aisle, and was demanding she produce her ticket stub. As nancyh fumbled through her purse, he was shining his flashlight on her and screaming loud enough for me to hear him over the loud and fabulous acoustics at the PNC Bank Center. He then escorted nancyh out, and a bit later she returned, ticket in hand. Apparently, her ticket wasn't for a Row 1 seat, but was pretty close. So when she snuck back into Row 1 he again physically removed her. He cleared out the center aisle, which had filled with a number of people leaving their seats and spilling over into the aisle. Then he went back to the front row and was accosting more fans, demanding he see their tickets, grabbing them by the arm, and yelling loudly.
By now, David was about half way through The Man Who Sold The World, and the security guard's latest tirade was occurring right at David's feet in Row 1. "Hold it!," David yells, and motions for the band to stop. He then glowered down at the security guard and, in a calm yet firm voice, said "You know, there's only one show in here tonight, and it's up here. So can you kindly take your little show elsewhere, Mr. Security Guard?" The fans howled in approval, as we were getting a bit tired of the distraction the guard was causing. Apparently, he was distracting David, too, and our Golden God decided to put an end to that. "Can we get a different security guard down here?," he asked looking backstage to where a stagehand was peaking through the curtains to see what was going on. "Because this guy is just too much," Bowie continued. So as the guard walked away, his tail between his legs, Mego and I decided this was our chance. We left our aisle seats and moved into the center aisle itself, where we stood at around Row 4, right in the middle and right below David's gray Converse-clad feet (I noticed his sneakers had lots of rips, holes, and frayed canvas - they ARE getting some mileage on them this tour, you know!). David instructed the band to pick up The Man Who Sold The World at the "second verse," but they started in at the wrong part. David looked back at them and jokingly said "no, the second verse - it's like the first, but later." And then he goes "one, two, three, four, and sings "Who knows? Not me. I never lost control." The band join in and he finishes the song to rousing applause - in part due to the performance of the song itself, and in part due to David's mid-song decision to chew out the overzealous security guard.
David then looked down at all of us crowded into the aisle - it was a virtual free-for-all in the guard's absence. "You will behave yourselves, right? Right?," he warned us, in a paternal manner. As though saying we'd better handle our security-guard-free stroke of luck responsibly.
A riveting and serene Heathen (The Rays) followed, with Gerry Leonard laying down an impeccable floor of sound. I swear, the man creates sound that you can see, taste, smell, and feel. The only bad part of this song was my having to endure two drunken idiots behind me the whole time. The bad side of the security-guard-free free-for-all was that no one was around to police these idiots. The female half of this dingbat duo kept grabbing my arm, like she knew me, and screaming "Oh my God, he's gorgeous!" then she'd look up at Bowie and scream "Bowie, you're f*cking gorgeous!" The male half decided to use my legs to steady himself back onto his feet after he fell forward into me, spitting beer down my arm, while his female half tried unsuccessfully to climb onto his shoulders. Mind you, they were in the equivalent of Row 5, in the Center Aisle, just a few feet from Bowie, so why she needed a piggy back ride to enhance her view was beyond my comprehension. Both of them were drunk as skunks, and I was steeling myself up for any barf they might spew my way. But when the guy decided to claw at me while trying to lift himself (with his drunken girlfriend still on top of his back, mind you), I had had enough. I turned around and told them to knock it off in terms that would have made a trucker blush - and Mego gave me this look that seemed to say "wow, I didn't know you had that in you." I knew that if I just tolerated them for a bit, though, they'd go away. They clearly were not real fans. They were not enjoying the show so much as they were enjoying their own buzz and the feeling of being at "an event." So I knew that if I just grinned and bore it for a tad, they'd either leave to get liquored up some more or go off and shag in the bushes. I was right. Halfway through Hallo Spaceboy they were nowhere to be seen, and by now I had moved into about Row 3, still in the aisle right under Bowie's feet. Hallo Spaceboy was amazing, too. The sound seemed to get louder and louder until the final scream of "Moondust will cover you!" You just want to collapse in a heap after an assault like that.
David introduced the band, calling Sterling a "monster drummer," which I loved. His duet with Gail on Under Pressure was lovely as always. And Ashes to Ashes had us all floating.
After Ashes to Ashes, David looked back at his band and asked "Shall we do Liza now? You wanna do it?" A few of us near the front who had heard the news leaked were already aware that David and the band, during sound check, had actually rehearsed Liza Jane, his first-ever single released exactly 40 years to the date on June 5, 1964. David walks up to the microphone, his carriage all boyish and says "I've got a secret" or "I've got a surprise" or something like that. He then says it was exactly 40 years ago that his first single was released, "so we have to do a bit of it for you." "I was still called Davy Jones then," he laughed. He then blushed in anticipation of performing the songs (I could actually see his cheeks flush!), covered his face, and warned us the song was "dreadful" and a real "second-placer." The band starts up into the funky, blues guitar riff that opens the song, and I'm immediately reminded of some of the bluesy guitar work on the first Tin Machine album. It sounded great, in my view. David's reaction was to cover his ears and shake his head in disbelief. He then sang the first verse and chorus, with a bunch of us singing along! He thought we were certifiably nuts! Afterwards, as the crowd applauded, he joked "thank God I don't have to do that again for another 40 years." Very cute moment.
And then the band crashes headlong into Station to Station. You've come a long way, Davy, since the days of the King Bees! The song was amazing. Regal. Volatile. Sexy. And Earl's guitar was aflame.
Next was a reworked version of I'm Afraid of Americans, with more of an emphasis on Garson's piano and Earl's guitar. It was a bit less loud in places, but was much more rock ‘n roll sounding.
David then dedicated "Heroes" to "our families and your families." And wished us all a "peaceful year." The song was anthemic as ever. My favorite parts are (1) when he sings "and the bombs shot above our heads" with such drama in his voice and face, and (2) toward the end when he sings "just for one daaaaaaaaaaaaaaay" and you think the song might end there, but then Sterling pounds away on this drums, the blue stage lights come off of Bowie and start circling and illuminating the crowd, and the song goes on for a while longer, everyone dancing, the party at its crescendo.
When David and Co. arrived back on stage for the encore, David announced that the PNC Bank Center has a curfew, but that "the folks here were kind enough to give us some extra time." The crowd was elated! For the first encore number, it was again Slip Away with the Polyphonic Spree! To hear 24 voices, along with trumpets and various horns, on the chorus to this nostalgic song is utterly mind blowing. And by now I was at the front, right at David's feet - thanks to a male fan who gave me cuts ahead of him (probably because I was jumping up and down and bugging the crap out of him, so he moved me ahead so I wouldn't crowd into him!). David knelt on the ground, his Stylophone in hand, his long neck extended skyward as he closed his eyes, leaned his head back, and listened to Tim DeLaughter sing the second verse. David's hair was a bit sweaty, and pushed back off his brow. His skin was wet, flushed, and glowing. I got a beautiful picture of him, kneeling before me, regal and serene, with the motley-colored Spree members behind him as the crowd sang the chorus following the little Oogie head as it bounced along on the back screen that served as a karaoke prompter. The picture turned out beautifully, and encapsulates one of my favorite moments on this tour. After the song, Bowie and the Spree took a bow, David thanked them and joked "see you on the bus." Then, as all the Spree members dispersed across the stage, one young woman from the choir section, dressed in a bright yellow robe, hugged David as though she did not want to ever let him go... and then reluctantly joined her bandmates by leaving the stage. In that moment, I think all of us in the crowd felt just like the yellow-clad Spree girl. We all wanted to just breathe David in, hold our breaths, and never exhale. We didn't want to let him go.
The Supermen was next. One of my favorites. Cat's "Oooh Aaahs" transported me to another world. I was transfixed, watching my favorite Superman just feet before me.
The place erupted for White Light White Heat, as usual. And the party kept going with Reality. David's voice was getting a bit raspy by now, and the ironic "ha, ha, ha, has" had a particularly menacing tinge as a result. He then launched into Hang On To Yourself, which was replete with breathy pants during the "Come on, ha! Come on, ha!" refrain.
Diamond Dogs followed, and David was screaming more so than singing at this point. I got the sense he was really letting loose and belting it out, figuring the next stop on the tour was in Europe six days later, so he had plenty of time to recuperate if we woke up hoarse the next day. During the part where he howls "AaaOooh!," the audience echoed back the howl. So he did a second - even louder - howl, which we also repeated like an echo. David laughed in response. "Bow wow woof woof," he teased! And then he took a running leap across the stage and screamed into the microphone as he jumped into the air as he passed it! This was the same move he had practiced earlier after Cactus! He was having such a blast! As the crowd applauded and screamed after the song's end, he again SCREAMED into his microphone! He seemed so loose and happy and just did not want to control himself at all. I've never seen him so unselfconsciously emotive and emotional. What a joy to witness his abandon and elation just as he was elating us. He was extremely playful, picking up a black fedora and white sailor's cap thrown up onto the stage, and incorporating the hats into his routine. BowieNetter Lruis was elated when Bowie donned his signed "sailor" hat - and Lruis even got the hat back as a souvenir at the end of the show.
By now we were all a sweaty mess. David was an out-of-control howling banshee. There was pandemonium in the air. It was time, David decided, for the final one-two punch of Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust. Game over! Bowie wins.
Bowie and the band took their final bows. He smiled appreciatively at the "Bon Voyage Sailor" banner that MandN, nancyh, and Isabelle held up, which bore all our good wishes for the upcoming European festivals leg of the tour. Sterling smiled at me - twice - as I beamed a happy smile back at him during the final bows. David seemed an amazing combination of spent and hungry-like he was exhausted from doing this, but like he could go for hours more! The next day, June 6, his 12th wedding anniversary, David responded thusly to a string of good wishes posted by fans on BowieNet:
Indeed, having a super day today. Baby, wife and me. Exhausted and croaky but very happy. On to Europe now.
"Exhausted and croaky" - ha! I KNEW he was screaming a lot, but he just didn't care. Now, as I look back on the optimism and joy with which David and the band embarked for the second European leg of the tour, I am saddened at the recent announcement that 16 of the 22 planned European festival appearances have now been cancelled while David nurses a trapped nerve in his left shoulder. What a sad way for the tour to end. Not with a bang, but a whimper, one might be tempted to observe. But such a statement would be in error. Every show this man does ends with a bang. He gives his all. I am especially happy to have caught this last US show, as I feel he really threw caution to the wind and performed with a wild abandon. I am so thrilled I got to see The Man six times this year... making up for lost time and all the tours I had missed before. Thank you, Dear David, for everything. The broken hearts of your European fans will mend. Now mend your shoulder, realize how much joy you brought to many on this tour, find your muse, and thrill and surprise us again soon, Sailor.
July 7th 2004.
TO CLOSE WINDOW