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  "David Bowie in Concert:
Alex and His Droogs"

Toby Goldstein - (June 1972)

Concert review for Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool (3 June - 1972)

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There is something about Liverpool that hits home the minute you step off the train at Lime Street.  Perhaps its the buildings seeming too large for their street-base, or the omnipresence of Dickensian factories.  Turning past Matthew Street and automatically craning the head to see number 10, its a moment of recognition: John, Paul, George and Ringo, so different they were, played for half a dozen slowly acknowledged years on this very road, the sweaty dank of the Cavern Club, their feet treading countless Friday lunchtime sessions on actual yellow brick road to fame and fortune.  Beatle archetypal memories and all, it's still difficult to accept the wealth of sound hyped as "Liverpool" as emerging from under the shadow of coal-black buildings and a space rocket cathedral surrounded by slums.  But as a roadie who knows, sighs, "If you can make it out of here, you can get out of anywhere." Liverpool is indeed a strangely appropriate place to see David Bowie, Kubrickian vision disguised as music.

David Bowie is in the midst of an English tour, interrupted only by a two-day hop to the States to worship amongst many at Elvis Presley's satined throne.  It will not be very long before Bowie returns to the US on his own tour - Andy Warhol and godknowswho else clamouring to see him.  Bowie has yet to set foot on an American stage, and already he is one of them, from his dyed carrot top to the tip of his shiny coloured lace-up boots.  Bowie infused a presence into the likes of a drafty Liverpool boxing stadium, the presence of the man, to be sure, but a man like Hendrix was a man, someone who sees his own light reflected and is able to smile through, talking to the audience with his eyes.

May be that it was not just coincidence to have seen "A Clockwork Orange" less than a week before.  The fifth repeat of "Ziggy Stardust" leaves the air to be replaced by Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", and happily do the characters take places stage front, right, left and back, geometrically arranged to follow an invisible witches pronouncement.  Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder flank Bowie with their instruments, the guitarist in black, bassist in white, flaunting painted faces of unearthly mask white. In their midst, Bowie is resplendent in gold-threaded checkerboard jumpsuit, smiling a welcome, and without a moment for reflection blasting into "Five Years".  Ziggy music is new to the several hundred working class teenagers sitting on the edge of the arenas chill, and they listen hard.  The song, performed with passion on record, commands attention in the flesh.  Bowie, true to his recording life, becomes what he is at the moment, and chooses here to play the part of doomsayer, holding out his hand, screaming FIVE YEARS!! fingers almost separating from straining muscles.  Behind his vocals, the band plays furiously, pain level sound that would be cathartic, were it not for the increasing levels of tension as the concert progresses.

Skillfully, David Bowie trades songs from Ziggy and Hunky Dory, chanting odes to Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, choosing to honor the Velvet Underground with a pair of their golden oldies. really to no ones surprise, "Waiting for The Man" and "White Light, White Heat" sound as if Bowie had them in the act for life. Mind brothers across the ocean, both generating levels of energy that would hit the self-destruct button on mere imitators. Bowie duplicates himself onstage - there must be five, or ten of him up there to hit every dark corner with the combined brilliance of floodlight and sound and not burn out.

When he breaks to speak, again the actor makes his delivery with his own lines. "When I grew up" he smiles craftily, "rock n roll stars came onstage with fancy suits, all dressed up.  But times have changed, and here I am, all cash..." All casual, right, with gear that came out of a Star Trek convention - we applaud, marveling at the unfazibility of this person. Well played sir.  Bowie is ready for yet another departure from expectation, as drummer Mick Woodmansey and Bolder the bassman silently leave.  Two acoustic guitars left, and Bowie starts "Space Oddity" What! How can he, where's Gus Dudgeon and the studio console? After one line, its as if we've never heard that production marvel sung another way.  His understated vocal and guitar convey the moon's lonely chill as carefully as months of knob twiddling.   David Bowie is not content with this feat, and sits alone to sing Jacques Brel's "Port of Amsterdam", a song that produces itself. Lyrics of perversion, degradation, populated with characters from Desolation Row, where you'll find Queen Bitch clinging to the dust. "Amsterdam" builds to a shrieking climax, Bowie mentally brushes himself off and moves to whatever's next, while we're all somewhere dragging ourselves off the floor openmouthed, automatically giving a deafening salute putting one hand next to the other.

It's back to rocking through to the end, Bowie freaking himself out in his Moonage Daydream, reeling by Suffragette City, giving the supporting players a chance to show off in a lengthy "I Feel Free."  A whisper from behind chokes in amazement, "They're better than Cream", a fan is born.  A concert has died, when recorded Ziggy bills ears, no encore here.  Alex having retired for a quick moloko-plus with his droogs.  To find the Liverpool Stadium, we chanced our luck through a dark tunnel, only a pinch of light at the end pointing direction. To find David Bowie, America will pass through that same tunnel, risking equilibrium for a golden reward.

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

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)