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|The Rainbow Theatre
(19 August 1972)
Featured Concerts Index
David Bowie's appearance at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London on the 19th August 1972 was one of the most famous and important Ziggy Stardust concerts ever staged. Bowie used this concert to introduce theatre and multi-media to rock performances, something which was totally revolutionary for the time. The concert was a huge critical success and was later described as "the most extravagant rock show ever produced in Britain."
In mid-August 1972, THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) had only been in circulation for just over two months and the 7.30pm concert at the 3,000 seat Rainbow Theatre (also known as the Finsbury Park Astoria Cinema when used for this purpose) was Bowie's first after a month-long break from the early part of his first UK Ziggy Stardust Tour.
The concert, which was simply billed as "Ziggy Stardust", represented a significant move away from the smaller pubs, universities and colleges that Bowie first started playing in - to the larger and more prestigious venues. Originally this concert was planned to be the last of Bowie's UK tour. However, due to the quick two-hour sell-out of tickets, another concert was hastily arranged at the Rainbow for the following night (also sold-out). Bowie subsequently played a further 10 "shortened" dates on his UK tour (commencing in Bristol on 27 August) which he announced were to be "warm-ups" for the forthcoming US Ziggy Stardust Tour.
Bowie and the Spiders from Mars rehearsed for this concert for two weeks at the Theatre Royal in East Stafford. Helping him with the choreography for the concert was his old mime teacher Lindsay Kemp (hurriedly summoned personally from Edinburgh by Angie). Kemp also provided the four dancers (the Astronettes) for the show from his mime-troupe and appeared as a dancer and character (The Starman) onstage. Interestingly, the name "The Astronettes" would also be used by Bowie for his backing singers at the 1980 Floor show in 1973; namely Ava Cherry, Jason Guess and Geoffrey MacCormack. Another friend from Bowie's past, dress-designer Natasha Korniloff, was called in to make 10 fine white elastic body-suits and a copy of the Japanese "woodland costume" which had begun to split ("I made a copy of it in Cire jersey and painted it exactly like the original") for the concert. Interestingly Kemp would later claim that his 12 person mime troupe were also originally intended/promised to tour the US with Bowie as a continuation of the Rainbow stage show, courtesy of RCA, but this never happened as it was considered to be too expensive.
The New Musical Express gig guide ran the following paragraph:
"Hello handsome, my name's David and I'm going to be at the Rainbow in lovely North London with The Spiders From Mars, some very pretty people called Roxy Music and a gorgeous butch blues singer called Lloyd Watson this Saturday and Sunday. It would be just too, too divine if you could make it there - and if you can't make it there just be there hmmm? Its going to be the most exquisite concert of the year. I wish Lou would come."
A Japanese film crew under Masayoshi Sukita was organised to film the concert but this has never been released. Security was tight and only one photographer from Melody Maker was allowed to photograph the show. The special light show was arranged by Angie Bowie. While parts of the show currently circulate among collectors on both audio tape and video, the quality of this film (Film of the Rainbow Concert) is relatively poor. Black and white film of interviews of the audience shot by Mick Rock also exist.
1972 Rainbow Theatre Programme
At a breakfast interview the day before The Rainbow Concert, Bowie told a journalist:
"I think what I do and the way I dress is me pandering to my own eccentricities and imagination. Its a continual fantasy. Nowadays there is really no difference between my personal life and anything I do on stage. I'm very rarely David Jones anymore. I think I've forgotten who David Jones is...."
Bowie and the Spiders rehearsed the afternoon of the concert and part of this was filmed by Mick Rock and became the promotional video for the song "John, I'm Only Dancing" (shown in the UK on Top of the Pops). The song "John, I'm Only Dancing" was to be released as a single two weeks later on 1 September 1972. The Astronettes, who wore spider-web/fish-net string costumes (designed by Lindsay Kemp), also appear in this video.
(larger image of inside)
At the concert a fold-out promotional flyer was distributed (see above). The outside being an 18cm x 18 cm miniature of the Ziggy Stardust album's front and rear cover with the inside a yellow flyer drawn by George Underwood. The opening acts for the two Rainbow Theatre concerts were blues guitarist Lloyd Watson and newcomers Roxy Music. Matthew Fisher, of Procol Harum, reportedly played organ and piano back-stage for the concert (although confusingly Nicky Graham is credited on the flyer as pianist). It was to be the first time that fans showed up at a Bowie concert dressed as Ziggy Stardust. Among those in the audience on the first night were Mick Jagger (seen dancing in the aisles during the concert), Elton John, Alice Cooper and Rod Stewart.
"What will I see tonight? I think I'll see an amazing show. I've followed him since he was doing gigs at The Marquee - years ago. I remember him from the Lower Third and all that rubbish. I think he's great. I think Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust are masterpieces. The lyrics and the story in "Ziggy"? Well I don't know too much about that. I just enjoy the music" - Elton John
Little is known about the second concert the following night (there is no tape of the event) but it is to be assumed that the performances were identical.
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---This page last modified: 13 Jul 2002---