David Bowie 1997-08-05 Nottingham ,Rock City Nottingham
02. The Man Who Sold the World
03. Queen Bitch
04. The Jean Genie
05. I’m Afraid of Americans
06. Battle for Britain (The Letter)
08. Seven Years in Tibet
11. Looking for Satellites
12. Under Pressure
13. The Motel
14. Strangers When We Meet
15. The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)
17. The Heart’s Filthy Lesson
18. Hallo Spaceboy
19. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
20. Little Wonder
21. Dead Man Walking
22. White Light/White Heat
23. O Superman
24. Look Back in Anger
A Personal View
by John Sellars
Here’s my review of David Bowie’s recent gig at Nottingham Rock City. I know that it’s a few days late, but Tuesday night really was something special and I wanted to make sure that I missed nothing out.
First of all, it’s a miracle I ever got there at all. I had decided to go to Nottingham because an old college mate of mine lives there and I thought it would be a good excuse to meet up. As it turned out my friend had just got a new job and was leaving the city for Hull the weekend before the gig. Still on a high after the Phoenix Festival I decided to go alone (just call me Johnny-no-mates). Actually, I don’t mind going to gigs solo. It’s about the only thing you can do where you don’t feel self-conscious; and anyway I wasn’t keen on advertising this particular trip as my friend were already calling me a Bowie-anorak. Even Mom said “but you’ve seen David Bowie more than me this year!” You get the general picture.
Five days to go and I was horrified when my ticket arrived to find it was for the wrong venue. The agency had sent me NEWCASTLE instead of NOTTINGHAM! What’s more since the tour was a sellout I was told there was nothing they could do about it. Talk about a cock-up. Fortunately, with time fast running out, I was able to make a late exchange and received the correct ticket with one day to spare.
Tuesday arrived and I took a half-day holiday to give myself time to make the 135 mile trip north. Fortunately the road were relatively clear and my old Ford made the journey in two hours (“must have been touching close to 94”). I used this dead time to listen to a couple of new CD’s, namely Talvin Singh’s Anokha: Soundz of the Asian Underground and The Wannadies’ Bagsy Me. Talvin played support to DB at the Hanover Grand gigs.
Once in Nottingham I managed to get lost. The whole City Centre is a complete nightmare to the uninitiated car driver. It has a terrible one-way system which makes it impossible to get anywhere fast. Just when I thought I was never going to find the place, I took a left on impulse and ended up driving past a crowd of people waiting to enter a building with the words ‘Rock City’ emblazoned in huge blue lettering on the wall outside. I had arrived. There was a series of advertising posters detailing forthcoming attractions. Bowie’s poster was the full-colour Earthling shot and had the words ‘SOLD OUT’ splashed across it. The other posters where printed in drab two-tone colour and featured lesser artists like Cheap Trick and Robbie Williams. Bowie was the only sell-out artist. While I was taking all this in I failed to notice a huge no entry sign ahead and ended up driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction. A group of cars were driving straight towards me and I was forced to mount the pavement to avoid them! All this excitement and I hadn’t even seen Bowie yet! I quickly performed a U-turn and parked the car as near to the venue as I could get (about ten minutes away – damn those double yellow lines).
The club was just as I remembered it The venue is well known in Nottingham as a heavy rock venue although I always preferred Saturday night which was indie night. It’s capacity is about 1500 and not surprisingly was packed to the rafters. It was uncomfortably hot and after 10 minutes the sweat was just poring off me. Most of the crowd were locals who couldn’t believe that Bowie was playing their small club and there was therefore a tangible air of excitement.
At 9.00pm Bowie appeared on stage making his usual (well for the Earthling tour anyway) low-key entrance. There was a split second of confusion before it dawned on the audience that that really was David Bowie up there and then it happened. The audience just went completely bonkers. There was screaming, shouting and all around a sea of raised hands followed by thunderous applause. People around me were just grinning broadly; “It’s David Bowie, it’s fucking David Bowie!!!” shouted the guy next to me. Mouths dropped open in awe. Bowie was completely taken aback my the response and thanked the audience many times before finally launching in to Quicksand. This caused the audience to shout even louder and in that second the temperature seemed to increase another 10 degrees. Bowie quickly followed up with MWSTW, Queen Bitch and Jean Genie. I’ve been going to see DB since 1983 and in all that time I’ve never seen an audience like this. They were loudly appreciative, highly animated (people were constantly being hoisted on other peoples shoulders throughout the night) and very knowledgeable of Bowie’s music. That night David Bowie could do no wrong. The atmosphere was just electric. Hanover Grand now seems like a far off nightmare, in fact I’m beginning to wonder whether it happened at all! Bowie really did seem to enjoy the whole experience and was extremely relaxed and chatty.
Next up was I’m Afraid, Battle for Britain and Seven Years in Tibet. During Seven Years a punky Siouxsie Sioux lookalike (wearing a sort of leather/fishnet type thingy) mimed to the whole song while balanced on a friends shoulders. She was rewarded with a broad smile from The Man.
I’m a little bit sketchy as to the exact order of the middle part of the set but as far as I can remember it went like this:
Fame/Looking For Satellites/Fashion/Stay/Under Pressure
The real surprise of the evening was when Bowie suddenly announced he was going to play a selection of songs from “the best album of 1995” and proceeded to play:
The Motel/Strangers When We Meet/Outside/Voyeur/HFL/Hallo Spaceboy
It was just great to here these songs again and just emphasized what a great album Outside really is. It is a classic and with time will come to be regarded as Bowie’s finest piece of work. The crowd just lapped it up and were particularly appreciative of Voyeur and Hallo Spaceboy. The final two songs were Scary Monsters and Little Wonder. SM was a real stormer but LW was surprisingly ham fisted – a little bit too crash-bang-wallop for my liking. In truth it was the only low spot of the evening. This wasn’t to put off the audience though who shouted and stamped their feet until the band returned to encore with DWM (much better with the speeded up vocal), White Light (which went down a riot), O Superman and Look Back In Anger. O Superman is still the highlight for me. There is so much happening during this song – Gail’s fantastic voice, the minotaur dancing menacingly in the background, Bowie miming throughout with well placed vocal accompaniment. “Go on, David” shout the crowd when he first starts to sing. I want this as a single and I want it now!!
After Look Back the audience know it is all over. In fact I don’t think they could have physically given any more. By this time the temperature is just unbearable and my body is screaming for fresh air. As the crowd streams out all you can hear are the words “fantastic”, “amazing”, “unbelievable”, and “wonderful”, not to mention “he hasn’t aged in the last twenty years”.
I just want to say how much I enjoyed this gig. It was exciting and had a big, big atmosphere. It totally restored by faith in the Bowie audience. Bowie himself showed that he is as relevant to day as he was 25 years ago. He surely is the UK’s greatest musical export.
FOOTNOTE: One final word to our American friends. You have to see this tour! You can’t afford the ticket? Borrow the money! He’s not playing your town? Take a plane, a train, a bus, a car – WALK for christsakes! You couldn’t get a ticket? Sell your house and use the money to buy a tout’s ticket!
David Bowie doesn’t get any better than this! Don’t moan that you missed the whole thing, as later I will only say “I told you so!”