David Bowie: Caught in the act
April 11, 1990
DAVID BOWIE has kept his promise. That's the best thing one can say about his current show.
In a press conference in London at the start of his world tour in March, the British rock star announced that he would concentrate exclusively on the biggest hits of his more than 20-year career. It would be the last chance fans would get to hear the old songs in concert, the singer vowed.
Whether Bowie will ever play the songs on stage again, or whether his announcement was just a ploy to sell more tickets this time, remains to be seen. The fact is, Bowie's concert at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, West Germany, last week was indeed a greatest hits compilation featuring some 20 songs from throughout his career.
Bowie supposedly chose the songs for each concert from a telephone call-in service that allowed fans to vote for their favorite oldies. Those songs with the most requests formed the basis of his live shows.
It was easy to guess which hits Bowie would play. For the Frankfurt show he chose such classics as Space Oddity, Jean Genie, Changes, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans, Fame, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Let's Dance, China Girl and Heroes.
What was unexpected was the lackluster renditions of the tunes. Bowie rattled off the hits — many of the numbers were uninspired two-minute versions of the originals — and generally gave the impression that he didn't want to be performing the songs in the first place. Added to that were the poor acoustics in the Festhalle (just about the worst this reporter has heard in the hall), which left the sound muddy in some places and discordant in others.
Also unexpected was the stage show — if one can call it that. Bowie, known throughout his career for his elaborate costume changes, wild wigs and other gimmicks, had said in the press conference that his 1990 concerts would not feature any of his previous theatrics. What he didn't say was that he would remain virtually motionless on stage, standing behind a transparent gauze video screen for most of the concert, while giant black-and-white images of himself loomed before the crowd. The man who once provided a show simply by being himself now resorts to high technology to amuse his fans.
Bowie fanatics who get off on seeing close-up images of his face may enjoy the concert, but fans of his music should best put the approximately $30 cost of the concert ticket toward purchasing the 49-song compilation Sound + Vision. 'Nuff said.