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Caught in The Act
Roy Hollingworth - Melody Maker (1972)
Review of Carnegie Hall Concert - 28 September 1972
A sense of boredom was beginning to hang over New York. The streets don't buzz anymore. Neither do the nights. Everyone is sensing it. And when David Bowie arrived the reason became obvious - American rock n roll is still hanging onto the 60s. It's rather like watching an old horse clatter onwards. No matter how many new riders you put on it, the horse don't get any younger.
Bowie arrived on a sleek, silver machine, pushing that old horse into the gutter, and covering it with dust. The nag will be allowed to get up again, because American record companies are dead as dogsmeat. It won't last much longer though. It can't.
Two weeks ago Bowie arrived on the QE2, and nested with his camp at the ultra-sharp Plaza Hotel. It was a mild, but worrying invasion. A collection of people with short-cropped hair and white faces were to be seen in the City the following night.
Bowie came over here as a star manufactured to a great extent, because people don't really know him here. Eight dates were scheduled for a two month stay - hardly a workingman's tour. The best hotels, a guard against too many interviews. Much hype flowed about. The mystery grew, and no matter how many tricks were played to make it grow, it was indeed a wise move.
It was all a bit of a mystery regarding the tickets for his Carnegie date. Rumour had it that RCA - Bowie's label - had bought up nigh on half of the seats. It was a rumour that even RCA would not completely deny. Whatever the case, a very large proportion of the audience was how you say, planned to be good.
Bowie struck it lucky, because his Carnegie Hall concert was literally the only thing happening in the City all week. Much interest surrounded the date. The cloak of mystery had worked.
There was a searchlight planted outside the Hall, it spun around slowly in a circle, and was extremely impressive. Many people stood outside the Hall, jostling for spare tickets. Bowie's first concert here, and there were touts about. Can't be bad.
I've never seen quite such a strange gathering of people that nattered, and posed around the Carnegie Cafe to the left, and downstairs in the Hall. For a start, there were many people who resembled Christmas trees on legs. There was much glitter, and several men dressed as ladies. As somebody quite rightly said, "The 60's are over, well and truly over."
The quiver of excitement that ran up the legs of the audience just before 9pm was extraordinary. It was really excitement. You could feel it, and if you shut your eyes, and thought very hard - you could touch it - an electrical thing that crackled in the air.
A strobe was turned on, and the familiar tones of "Clockwork Orange" music cut the air, very loud, and quite suddenly there was Bowie in New York City. A figure seen to be plugging in a 12 string jumbo. A figure that was continually falling to pieces, as the strobes played their tricks.
How lovely it all was ... a rock n roll band kicking up dirt, and attacking. Bowie was trying every minute, and working like fury. And glory did it work.
Mick Ronson was playing rock guitar like it should be played. No frills, just a quick wrist. The audience just loved him.
The first ten-minutes were great, then it all fell a little with a couple of numbers that appeared to have too many ingredients. Wide-eyed Bowie was sensing everything mind, and he kicked it all back up, and then cooled it completely by sitting on a stool and chunking out "Space Oddity". What a lovely song that is.
Bowie announced that he'd picked up a 48-hour virus, but he was still sizzling with energy, singing like a wild thing in that lean, cultured voice. He was something to watch, something to get off to.
Half-way through he'd captured the audience. There wasn't an ounce of laziness about, Bowie was out to entertain.
There was a really fat old chap who sat three seats away - a reporter from a really fat old newspaper. He was taking notes by the dozen and had a puzzled look across his face.
Bowie had a smile from ear to ear when he delivered the Warhol ditty, and then announced that he was "kind of bringing coals to Newcastle with two Velvet underground numbers."
They fairly stomped along and a piece of the audience got up, and started dancing. "Waiting for The Man" was just crazy - one might confidently say he's added much to that number. Then "White Light" and the Carnegie ran spare with fun. What a fun evening it was.
A standing ovation, it had to be.
And such a constant roar for an encore that he came back and did Chuck's "Around and Around"
Even when he delivered that, his face didn't wander from the one expression it had kept all evening. It was an almost child-like, innocent, smiling face, filled with imagination and bright eyes. He seemed to know all the time that it would work.
---This page last modified: 13 Dec 2018---