England - Full Moon 71 - 07/24/02
Quart Festival, Norway 03.07.2002
David Bowie could've been the hero of my youth. I was too young to identify with the Woodstock
nation and too involved in other kinds of music when the first wave of punk bands hit the stage.
Bowie would've fit perfectly along with the Sweet and Slade singles. Maybe Ziggy's costumes were
too far out for my tender age. His pictures were often present in the hit & glitter magazines I
occasionally bought at the time. It wasn't until 1975 I got familiar with his music, though.
Pinups was the LP (!) and after a few spins I was convinced. It was great; I was ready for
more! Unfortunately my next encounter was David Live. Detroit soul wasn't my cuppa tea at
the time ("Panic in Detroit" all right), and Young Americans soon afterwards didn't make
matters much better. Bowie was written off as a one-album artist! If only I'd known...
When my synthesizer friends started to rave about Low and Heroes a few years
later I was only moderately interested. After closer listening I had to admit the albums had lots
of moments. With 1980's Scary Monsters I really realised I'd missed something. An album
with Bowie, Eno and Robert Fripp up front couldn't fail (well, Heroes, too), three of the
older artists to survive the 70s without loosing any respectability or dignity. And that
simultaneously smooth and raw production... I finally started to dig into Bowie's back-catalogue
and discovered treasures such as Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust.
Twentysomething years later news of a Bowie performance at the Quart Festival in Kristiansand
on the southern coast of Norway, close to my origins, was too good an opportunity to be missed.
He was one of the major headlines of the five days festival and by far the oldest of them among
relatively new and otherwise hip names on the bill. We only had the guts to stay for one day. A
bit of rain and too many posh teenagers more interested in each other and each other's clothes,
haircuts, piercings etc. proved the decision to be right. Among the many bands to experience,
The White Stripes of Detroit (no panic at all!) alone would've saved my day. If you're
into minimalistic perverted versions of American popular music of the 20th century, look no
further. Even more fun than on record, check out reviews and an interview in earlier Luna
menus. An exhilarating version of "Jolene" made
Bowie exclaim he would only play Dolly Parton songs all evening after he'd entered the stage an
hour later. Anyway, he started with only piano accompany, a low-voiced "Life On Mars?" until the
rest of the band entered midway through. What a start! The rest of the show was a mixture of other
greatest hits ("Changes", "Heroes", "Ashes To Ashes", "Fashion"...), songs from Low ("Speed
Of Life", "A New Career In A New Town" and "Sound And Vision"), from the new album Heathen
(Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting For You", "Slip Away", "5.15 The Angels Have Gone", "Everyone
Says Hi"...) and a few other recent songs ("Hallo Spaceboy" from Outside among them). The
biggest surprise was perhaps the inclusion of his most calculated hits (to these ears) "Let's
Dance" and Iggy's "China Girl". The former started slowly with Spanish guitar. I didn't realise
which song they were playing until it exploded. "Afraid", Pixies' "Cactus" and the title track
were highlights off Heathen (his best album in ehrrrr... 22 years if you ask me). The latter
managed to keep the boys and girls swinging after "Heroes" had finished. The somewhat distant
thin white duke had brought an experienced band along. Carlos Alomar wasn't among them but three
other guitarists had no problems to fill the gaps. And bassist and backing vocalist Gail Ann
Dorsey is a firework in her own right. One of the last encores was "I'm Afraid Of Americans" off
Earthling. The sun had faded in the north an hour earlier, a bit of rain had come in from
the sea and it was passed midnight. I don't know if it was intentionally to play that particular
song at the start of 4th of July, but very appropriate if you ask me. I'm getting more and more
terrified each time that not-quite-democratic-elected-president-of-theirs opens his mouth to say
something about international affairs. Anyways, David - citizen of New York - gave the elderly
what we wanted. Ziggy Stardust was the last encore. And Ziggy still played guitar! We didn't get
the second set of encores with songs from Low that's been presented occasionally lately. Neither
David nor Ziggy stayed overnight. They flew over the sea a little later for some other planet.
The funniest part of the show to me was one of the locals from Kristiansand. He was probably
around 50, grey-haired, not quite sober, running and slipping around and singing along to all
the songs older than 1983. He seemed to have been waiting for Bowie to arrive in his hometown
for the last 25 years. I guess it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Copyright © 2002 JP