Tuesday 1 September 2009

David Bowie: Central London Polytechnic, London 1972

"YES, I'M DAVID BOWIE. These are the Spiders from Mars. And we're the slickest show in town."

A crash and a jump and the band is roaring, David in a mirrored jump suit, twelve string acoustic guitar slung across his pelvis, prancing about while he sings some obscured lyrics introducing the band. The Lauren Bacall hair has been sacrificed in favour of a Rod Stewartish crewcut, but he still looks gorgeous. With no introductions or thank yous the Spiders zoom through most of HUNKY DORY, with occasional oldies and new songs along the way. Even though the twelve string is plugged into an amp it's inaudible most of the time, but David uses it to good Elvis advantage, standing with legs apart, crotch forward, mimicking the lyrics with his hands before lifting his arms in an imploring Tom Jones/Andy Williams reach for the audience, the hands slowly drifting ever higher until he looks like he's being crucified. Song stops, head drops in utter exhaustion, stage plunges into darkness, audience goes wild. Yep, it sure is slick.

After awhile David actually pauses and says, "Thank you." Two stools are brought out and David and the Spiders' guitarist perch on them, playing elegantly while the lights flash blue-pink and orange-red around them. Finally he introduces a song by "a French composer, Charbrot. It was translated from French into American. Then into English. It's about Amsterdam." Applause and cheers from the freakier members of the audience – 'Ah yes, mon cheri, those nights in the Paradisio...the mentions in Suck...the hash...' – while the more obvious appearing students peer around them in confusion. Who is this weirdo singing about sailors urinating in Amsterdam, taking bows after each song, filling his verses with images of space and superior aliens who don't want to blow our minds? He even sang 'Space Oddity' – can't see how that got into the Top Ten. Tony Blackburn certainly didn't play it. And so thinking they turn either for the bar and another pint of Guinness or the door and home.

The band returns and delivers "our homage to the Sixties": 'I Feel Free'. The break comes and the guitarist does a Pete Townshend stick-the-arm-in-the-air while playing the frets for two minutes. A strobe light twitches into its alpha rhythm frenzy and the band leaps about the stage while roaring feedback and amphetamine guitar runs fill the air, almost equaling Cream in boredom. Predictably, it gets thunderous applause.

David, meanwhile, has disappeared offstage, and when he returns, yes, he has changed his outfit to a pair of bleached trousers, trendily rolled up to display his boots, and a flimsy black and white shirt open to the waist. Donning his guitar he runs through a few more numbers before announcing, "The rest of our show will be devoted to some old rock and roll songs," the first of which is 'White Light White Heat', followed by 'Hot Pants'. They've got it down to the last guitar lick, and you almost expect David to shimmy one legged across the stage, but instead he picks up his sax and honks out some beautifully boozy runs. All too soon he carefully places it on the floor (it's plastic, you know) and they're drawing to a close. The crowd goes wild for an encore, stamping and chanting, but my last bus home will be departing in a few minutes, so I leave. And all the way home I keep hearing, "Ch-ch-ch-changes," and especially, "Look out all you rock and rollers." True words.

Phonograph Record

1 comment:

Mondo said...

Still reads daisy-fresh 37 years on. Nice to see the Elvis influence noted.

I'm sure you know already, but there's several El/Bo connections - you can catch them here