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The Super Pop Event


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Alfred G. Aronowitz - New York Post  (29 September 1972)

Review of Carnegie Hall Concert - 28 September 1972

"It was the super culture event of the season" says my friend Tattler Bob. He is talking, of course, about David Bowie’s New York debut at Carnegie Hall last night. I went to the Grateful Dead concert myself, but not out of any disrespect for David. I just don’t go to Carnegie Hall. The house manager and the assistant house manager were rude to me once too often and a letter of half-hearted apology from Isaac Stern, the Carnegie Hall President, didn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.

And so I missed the super pop culture event. Too bad. I would have liked to see David perform. Maybe I’ll catch him in another town. We had dinner together the other night and there’s more underneath his dyed orange hair than mousey–coloured roots. But then that’s another story. RCA has invested a couple of tons of money into trying to build David up as the super-talent phenomenon of the 70s and the glitter at last nights show reflected the shine of that money.

"Tickets are harder to come by than for a Rolling Stone concert" says Tattler Bob. The Tattler has become well-known on the rock scene for the controlled awe in his hyperbole. "There were guys with faces painted with silver so thick that you would need a pallet knife to clean it off.  There were chicks with see throughs, with pasties, with feathers. There was the brigade of indeterminate sex. There was Tony Perkins and Todd Rundgren and Alan Bates and Andy Warhol and Lee Radziwill. All the heavy agents were there. All the heavy rock critics."

Well Bob, I know you didn’t mean to slight me – but then I have respect for hyperbole, too. There are those who say that David Bowie and his group are destined to become the world’s greatest rock band.

"Bowie came on in a blinding haze of lobsterscopes flashing into the eyes of the near demented audience" Tattler Bob says "Dressed in red carrot-top hair, red boots and a multi-coloured jump suit. Bowie carried an electrified acoustic guitar. His sidesmen came from the same tailor. The drummer had bleached blond hair and a gold jump suit. The bass player had long dyed white sideburns down below his neck. It was a fashion show, on and off the stage."

Tattler Bob is a severe critic. I do not always agree with him and find that his eye is sometimes quicker than his ear. For the first two numbers he thought it was loud, boring rock. During the fifth number, Bowie announced that he’d better tell the audience he was suffering from a 48 hour virus. By the seventh number, the audience was starting to get off behind the music. Tattler Bob wrote in his notes.

"Maybe I’m not reacting because I’m not stoned. Are they applauding the image or the musician?"

By the eight number, the Tattler found himself digging the music but still trying to find a rationale for disliking Bowie. "No dominant personality emerges" he wrote "like Mick or Rod. Bowie's record albums are better than his live performances. He does not stand out among his band the way a star should.  He does not have the power to create and command the frenzy that Leon Russell does.  Certainly David is a far superior musician and composer to Alice Cooper.  His voice is better than Alice's and 100 other rock performers. But all the floral stage effects, the makeup, the costumes do not cover up the hard facts that he is an unarresting in-person performer. It is not freak, fag or far-out rock. It is an excuse to infuse basic theatrics to cover up a lack of dominant stage presence, the dominant personal bravado that can sweep you to heights of ecstasy and madness."

Tattler Bob says the heavy rock critics present produced no consensus.   They ranged from great exuberance to downright hate.  Lee Radziwill thought it was fabulous.  Andy Warhol thought it was the best thing since Kitty Hawks.

By the 12th number, Bowie and his entire band had changed costumes.   Tattler Bob looked around and noted that some people in the audience had David Bowie haircuts and dyed hair as well.  The man next to Tattler said that this was going to be one hell of a rock group.  By the 14th number, "Starman" Tattler Bob was dancing in his seat.

"He baffled the straights, bored the hips, delighted the stoned freaks and had flowers thrown at him " Tattler Bob says, "The 16th and 17th songs were pretty good.  The set last an hour and a half.  I've seen much more responsive audiences at Carnegie Hall, but the group wasn't as bad as I expected it to be."

Is Tattler Bob prejudiced?  He says he likes David Bowie's records.   When Bowie came out for an encore, the Tattler says, he found himself boogying.   Bowie may very well turn into a superstar, but not because of Tattler Bob's critical acclaim.  The most he'll say is that the band showed promise.  He'd go to see them again.

---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---

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