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Rock Music: 
A Colourful David Bowie


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Don Heckman - The New York Times (1 October 1972)

Review of Carnegie Hall Concert - 28 September 1972

English Group Blends Tinsel and Rhythm

Tinseled English rock superstars have been sprouting eagerly all over the place this season, but most, unfortunately, have looked as appealing as out-of-date Christmas trees. On Thursday night at Carnegie Hall, David Bowie, one of the most heralded - and, to American audiences, one of the most unknown - of the new theatrical rock stars proved that the whole trend hasn't been a publicity agent's fantasy. The mother country still has a few worthwhile exports for her erstwhile colony.

Advance stories about Bowie had most of us expecting a performance that would be little more than a transvestic fashion show with musical accompaniment. But despite Bowie's obvious interest in unusual costuming, make-up and dyed hair, he is a solidly competent stage performer who brings a strong sense of professionalism to every move he makes. Those members of the audience - and there obviously were many - who expected a racier show received a major disappointment.

There can be no denying the outright colorfulness of Bowie and his group. He and his band members have dyed their hair various shades, from Bowie's flaming orange to the drummer's snow white. Their costumes, made of a shiny satin-like texture, with tight trousers tucked into laced-up boots, combined with the strangely hued hair and highlighted facial make-up to give the musicians an otherworldly appearance, almost as thought they were acting out Bowie's fascination with science fiction.

'Changes' in Repertory of Unfamiliar Tunes

The music is not very familiar, aside from a few tunes - the stuttering 'Changes' is one - that have received some radio play in this country. Unfamiliar or not, it is good music with a sense of sectionalization and variation that has been woefully rare in much rock music lately. Bowie still doesn't seem to know how to write an appealing melody, but this promise of his talent is crystal clear.

Most important, as a performer, Bowie delivered. He understands that theatricality has more to do with presence than with gimmickry, and that beautifully coordinated physical movements and well-planned music can reach an audience a lot quicker than aimless prancing and high-decibel electronics. In an age of publicity overkill, that alone has to be counted a major accomplishment.

---This page last modified: 13 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)