Monday, February 02, 2004

meet the new killer star, same as the old killer star

spaceman. rebel. dandy. new-waver. jetsetter. technopopper. all these labels and more fit david bowie at some point or another, and he attempted to manifest most of them during his show saturday at the shrine auditorium. where all the cool kids were at.

the auditorium, it must be said, is a gorgeous, gorgeous place. like most vintage venues, it is incredible ornate and, though recently restored, smells faintly of age. the chandelier is the most spectacular thing, a giant glittering breast-like orb clustered about with smaller globe-like satellites (and mirrored by a smaller version near the proscenium), glowing pink or deep red and maybe other colors too. a good setting for the venerable rock star. yeah, he's 57.

the set list had 27 songs but i think he skipped one during the encores. still, it was 2 hours and 15 minutes of a few too many lonely spaceman ballads and not enough rockers. i mean, at some point in the middle i felt so, like ... what's that stones song? "it's so very lonely, you're 2,000 light years from home"?? yeah. eh, it was the type of gig i really hate doing: an act i like that left me strangely cold. it has been suggested in some quarters that bowie has always had that arch/cold/ice thing, and this is true. but it wasn't strictly his demeanor; it was his commitment. i think my review said he was not so much enamored of the material as fond of it. something like that. i know i am ruined by my experience with iggy pop and the stooges recently, but there was something kinda smarmy and near-vegas-y about bowie. the stage patter was exceptionally cheesy. but he seemed genuinely into being there and performing, so i guess it's all part of the package.

the band was really good. a bunch of veterans. mostly i remember bassist gail ann dorsey, who was rocking a scary color-blocked dress, boots, and that meshell ndegeocello shaved-head look. adorable, but it was more about the pumping steady pulse she put out, and the way she threw herself into freddie mercury's parts on "under pressure." which seemed like a lame tune to do until you consider that "china girl" and "i'm afraid of americans" were also on the bill. "all the young dudes" was quite anthemic, with the whole audience waving their arms and singing along. and an encore of "hang onto yourself" was, to use the governor's favorite word, fantastic. (there was an article in the l.a. times today about how much schwarzenegger uses "fantastic." i would link to it but the cheap bastards make you pay. so, f that, as one of my coworkers would say.)

still, this long, long show suffered from a dearth of rockers. would it have killed him to play "panic in detroit"? or "moonage daydream" instead of, say, "five years"? (although he actually did that well.) granted, the set list changes each night. (although i betcha that means he rotates out a few songs here and there, not that he changes everything each night. at least, a set list from berlin seems to indicate that.) so maybe it's rock-er other times. who knows?

and he was rockstar-y. he got up on the catwalk surrounding the band for "hallo spaceboy," and despite the fact that he was wearing CONVERSE FUCKING SNEAKERS (and i love converse, i own a pair, and they're great for punk bands, but wtf david?? i expect you to try a little harder than that for the people), he was riveting. i don't even know what he was fucking singing. who cares? you were just like, "wow. look at that. i think he's levitating." also, as previously noted, he was in fine voice, and he sang this tune "slip away," which i don't know, quite poignantly. he said something about being inspired by an old children's show called "uncle floyd". the song was a goofy star-twinkled wistful sad take on the passage of time and things, the kind of torchy isn't-it-sad-we-lost-our-innocence-please-pass-the-dust number of which he is king.

and the audience: all the fat skinny people, all the tall short people, all the nobody people, all the somebody people. oh yeah. a pair of matronly ladies, sensibly dressed but clutching excitedly at each other in the aisle, perhaps recalling some wanton days of old when they put on their flared-leg belted skintight jumpsuits and platforms, righteously feathered their hair, and went off for a night of glam-soaked debauchery. another pair of friends, sweet young things in complementary diaphanous camisoles, matching long dark hair, pale skin, and eye makeup for days. a knot of adorable latino goth kids, two super-gay boys and their ... what's spanish for fag hags? one looked like dave navarro's younger brother, all dramatic black curls and severely shaped facial hair. the other wore some sort of woven/crocheted shirt with little bits of mirrors or something reflective all over it. they eventually had to leave b/c they weren't in the right seats. we were in the weasel section, so it was probably the most subdued (at least after the goth kidz left), but people still stood up and cheered and whatnot. and my favorite fan might've been the middle-aged, super-square-looking dude who boogied his way back to his seat during "white light white heat." (another questionable choice not terribly compellingly executed.)

it was exhilarating to see all the different types of people there to worship bowie. he doesn't feel like a false god, maybe more like a paler one than he used to be. although his power doesn't seem too diminished. yet he maybe doesn't turn it up to 11, so to speak. so he feels slightly faded. true, he hasn't had a real hit in a long time, so maybe that's the fading part. or maybe, as someone said, he's gotten too comfortable, with the whole iman thing and all. i don't think iggy pop is exactly hurting, but maybe it's more a matter of how you let those things carry you. oh, i don't know. that's just silly rockcrit extrapolation.

so we escaped during the last number, "ziggy stardust," and dashed to the parking garage where the other several thousand people's cars were still parked. i ran up five flights of stairs in my semi-high-heeled new boots, but for some reason it was that last short haul up the ramp to my car that hurt my legs the most. we rolled out just inches ahead of the surge. driving home on third street, i hit a massive pothole, like the mother of all fuckin' potholes, and in hancock park of all places! a hubcab went ping-rattling onto the sidewalk, so i drove around the block in hopes of retrieving it intact. 00soul obligingly leapt out to snag the wayward disk and stumbled into a veritable hubcap graveyard. i watched through the open passenger door as he held up a couple of different models, finally selected the right one, and hurried on back. if i were harlan ellison in the '70s i would write a science-fiction -- oops, i mean speculative fiction -- story about the creature that set that trap and what it does with the hubcaps. or the people who come looking for them.

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