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Bowie & Lou Reed perform "Sweet Jane", "White Light/White Heat"
and "Waiting For The Man" at the Royal Festival Hall, London (8 July 1972).

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A Star Is Born

by Ray Coleman - Melody Maker Magazine (15 July 1972)

When a shooting star is heading for the peak, there is usually one concert at which its possible to declare, "That's it - he's made it." For David Bowie, opportunity knocked loud and clear last Saturday at London's Royal Festival Hall - and he left the stage a true 1972-style pop giant, clutching flowers from a girl who ran up and hugged and kissed him while a throng of fans milled around the stage. It was an exhilarating sight.

Bowie is going to be an old-fashioned, charismatic idol, for his show is full of glitter, panache and pace. Dressed outrageously in the tightest multicoloured gear imaginable, Bowie is a flashback in many ways to the pop star theatrics of about ten years ago, carrying on a detached love affair with his audience, wooing them, yet never surrendering that vital aloofness that makes him slightly untouchable.

On Saturday, the magic was boosted by an unadvertised appearance by Lou Reed. The American jammed with David and his group, and although mutual admiration societies like this are often disappointing ego trips, an electrifying heat came across the stage as David and Lou roared into "White Light", "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Sweet Jane." Their obvious admiration for each other's style was great to watch. Bowie did the back-up vocal work to Lou's haunting singing, and though his words were hard to pick up, Reed's presence was terrific. In black-sequinned jump-suit and gold shoes, he stood with feet tripping into a neat criss-cross movement at the breaks in his songs - rather like The Shadows used to do in that much-mocked leg-crossing stage movement.

There was something beautifully earthy, cool and all-knowing about Lou Reed, and the crowd who had come mainly to see Bowie were obviously in love with the memory of Lou's Velvet Underground history. Reed now needs to strengthen his simmering popularity here with a full-scale tour of his own. The time is now.

But this concert still belonged to Bowie, legs astride as wide as possible, his face painted incongruously to project a Danny La Rue profile and his diction quite splendid. His music naturally comes mainly from the Ziggy Stardust hit album, but little on this record equals the canny "Changes" from the HUNKY DORY set, or the classic "Space Oddity". At the start, the sound was imperfect, but once this was settled Bowie came over powerfully, oozing with histrionic confidence, with Mick Ronson turning in a potent lead guitar.

"Starman", "Five Years", Andy Warhol", a straight solo on "Amsterdam" and a superb encore, "Suffragette City", were the high-spots of a show which saw Bowie dressed in two outfits, obviously revelling in stardom, strutting from mike to mike, slaying us all with a deadly mixture of fragility and desperate intensity, the undisputed king of camp rock.

The concert, presented by Friends of the Earth to save the doomed whale, also featured Marmalade and the JSD Band...a superb nights music, because all of them have roots. Like Marc, Bowie has been a long time coming, but a more certain Bolan-chaser I never saw. At the end, two "Ziggy" banners were extended by fans over the balcony. Bowie has arrived - a worthy pin-up with such style.

---This page last modified: 03 Jul 2002---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)