Having one’s alarm clock programmed to awaken to international news, as I do, is like asking to be greeted by darkness and rain each morning. The first sounds wafting into your sleeping ears are not likely to be uplifting. Without having tested my theory (yet), I’m willing to bet small dollars that you’re twice as likely to hear Jack Speer of NPR utter the word “beheading” than “cease-fire.”
Still, getting wind of David Bowie’s death darkened the already dismal morning of news. Whenever my father used to hear of someone’s death, he’d joke, “Geez, I didn’t even know he was sick,” and in this case I didn’t know that the former Ziggy Stardust had been sick for about a year and a half with “cancer” (a vague term more suitable to 1916 than 2016).
I probably had a handful of chances to see Bowie perform live but only availed myself of the opportunity once. It was 1997 on his “Earthling” tour, and I almost didn’t get a ticket because I had misheard that it was David Byrne who’d be performing. I liked David Byrne, but I had already seen him at the Orpheum in Boston. Realizing that the old theater would be occupied by Bowie, an easy-to-love musical chameleon with huge live appeal (though an old guy at 50 years of age!), I couldn’t say no.
There is much to remember about that concert, but what has always stuck in my mind are the ovoid pods onto which faces were projected during the show. A simple bit of theatrical special-effects in which the faces were distorted by the incongruity of the egg-pods, the hugely entertaining evening of music was made even more interesting by the strange visuals.
When the show ended, I assumed that was the last I’d see of the Earthling tour, but thanks to YouTube there are plenty of opportunities to relive 1997. The sound of this particular video is only so-so, but you get a pretty good sense of the experience I was treated to nearly 20 years ago.
David Bowie R.I.P.