Speaking as a long-suffering fan, this show was a velvet goldmine, payback time for all the years of squandered goodwill and qualified disappointment...
“I can’t let an opportunity like this go by without doing one Tin Machine song.”
Oi! Bowie! Noooooo! It was all going so swimmingly too. Here at the European launch of ‘hours…’, his most commercially successful album for more than a decade, rock’s most eerily ageless 52-year-old hasn’t hit a bum note all night. For once Bowie is performing without artifice or distance. No risible mime moves, no Lord’s Prayer, no grating industrial junglecore. Just lots of jokes and the best voice in Britrock, couched in simple arrangements. With his swooshy mane and quality knitwear, the old groaner’s either discovered some fountain of eternal youth or had hormone replacement therapy. Most of the crowd are half his age, but he still looks younger than anyone here. The bastard.
During most Bowie comebacks, we tolerated the new stuff while hanging on for the hits. But the tracks from ‘hours…’ which pepper this set are presented with gusto and without apology. The sublime ‘Thursday’s Child’ already feels familiar, while ‘Something In The Air’ unfurls with a wistful, ‘Hotel California’ air. And supple soft-shoe shuffles like ‘Seven’ and ‘Survive’ are pure Millennial Dave, more tender reflection than arty affectation.
Best of all, for Bowiephiles, is the choice of archive fare. Not the usual singles and standards, but some inspired surprises – like the 1966 Carnaby Street mockney mod-rock stomp ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, last played before your reviewer was born. Others, like the beautiful occultist hymn ‘Word On A Wing’ from 1976’s ‘Station To Station’ and a muted acoustic revamp of ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’ from 1977’s proto-techno landmark ‘Low’, have quite possibly never been played live before. Likewise the numb art-disco wife-beating saga ‘Repetition’, excavated from 1979’s ‘Lodger’ and a clear ancestor of Blur‘s ‘Girls And Boys’.
Speaking as a long-suffering fan, this show was a velvet goldmine, payback time for all the years of squandered goodwill and qualified disappointment. Speaking as an objective journalist – sorry, but it was still pretty damn impressive. If he keeps this up for the official tour, Bowie will be better than anyone has dared hope for decades.
Just one humble suggestion. Lose the Tin Machine song.