Monday, January 18, 2016
I first became aware of David Bowie when I was 14 and the little town I grew up in FINALLY got MTV. Like so many women of my generation, it was "Let's Dance" that introduced me to this amazing artist. I loved the song and Bowie was cute.
BUT! What really got me hooked was when I discovered he had a Lead Hand Clapper in his band.
I immediately got the joke. And when he changed his persona for his next album, that was it. I knew Bowie was a kindred spirit and followed everything he did for the rest of his life.
I was also privileged to have been able to see him perform twice.
The first time I saw David Bowie in concert, I was 21 years old. It was 1990, I was living in Ann Arbor and he was doing his Sound + Vision tour to promote his most recent greatest hits release. This would be the last time he would be performing his greatest hits, live.
I went to the Palace of Auburn Hills with my friends. I paid tribute to Bowie by paying a little bit of attention to the fashion statement I was making. I went for comfortable, yet "wow that's kind of cool for some reason" and topped off my minimal makeup with false eyelashes.
The tickets came from the brother of one of my friends, who met us in the parking lot, with a sad face. He was so upset. He got the tickets from a friend and the seats were horrible.
And he wasn't exaggerating. Extreme upper bowl to the side of the stage. We couldn't even see Bowie (he was smaller than a toy army soldier - ha!), let alone the video/art - "the theater" - The "vision" of the Sound + Vision tour. :(
But we could hear the music, and we all, very quickly, became OK with the situation, because it didn't matter. We were in the same space as David Bowie. We were listening to him play his hits, live, for the last time.
For those two hours, we were the luckiest people alive ;-)
Fast forward five years to the Outside Tour, with Nine Inch Nails.
I was intrigued about this tour as soon as I caught wind of it. Trent Reznor loved Bowie. Bowie and Trent clicked due to their shared hatred of where they grew up and because they had a shared artistic vision.
I love Nine Inch Nails and grew up in the same conservative, neck of the woods as Reznor, who came to my hometown for his first year of college; the catalyst for Reznor finding the courage to step outside the box. (I say this with confidence because I grew up there. It's a great place to raise children, but it's so geographically and socially confining that, if you're ready for something bigger, you simply will not fit and your spirit will not allow you to stay ;-)
I was currently wrapped up in Bowie's new album/art piece. I really wanted to see/hear this tour. It was very personal to me. I understood Reznor, and Bowie had always been, my Misfit Mentor.
I couldn't have been more excited about the possibility of going to this show, mainly because it was different - no intermission between the two artists. Bowie and Nine Inch Nails would perform together for a few songs and then it would unfold into Bowie's new piece.
My finances were a mess and a ticket was out of the question. So, I let it go. I had already seen both Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie. It was OK.
The day of the show came. And, to make a long story short, I was given a ticket to the show, at the very last minute.
But, when you live in Royal Oak, MI, you are about 20 minutes from Auburn Hills, and about 30 from the Palace. Either way, it's not the end of the world. Hair, makeup and fashion were off the table. I went to the show looking like I had just rolled out of bed. I drove way too fast, knew some shortcuts and drove on faith, past "closed road" signs, to get to the show as fast as I could. I am proud to say we got to the Palace in a little under 15 minutes that night.
Just a note - I knew people lived on the roads that were closed, even though you couldn't see the houses. It was a nice neighborhood in Bloomfield Hills, where all the houses were off the street and surrounded by trees. Needless to say, my boyfriend at the time was a hot mess because it was dark, there were no street lights, he had no idea where he was or why I was ignoring "closed road" signs. Now, at this point in my life I am able to laugh and see how much he earned the experience ;-)
When we got there, Nine Inch Nails were already playing. It sounded so beautiful, hearing it as we walked up and then experiencing how much louder it was at each entrance. We found our seats and were pleased to find ourselves, in the lower bowl, at the side of the stage. We wouldn't be able to see Bowie's visual art real well, but the close proximity to the stage made up for it. Tonight Bowie would be the size of a Barbie Doll.
The defining moment of the evening, for me, was witnessing the true depth of Bowie's dedication to his art, as well as his fans.
Unfortunately, that night in 1995, only a handful of us were there to see Bowie's new piece. He played three or four songs from the album. We could sort of see the visual, art pieces and how they coincided with things, but the reality was, the stadium was packed and he was losing the majority of the crowd.
Bowie finished the song they were playing. Sank his head, smirked, laughed and shook his head. Then he lifted his head, and with a big smile on his face said "All right. Here. You'll probably like this better." and without missing a beat, he and his band switched the concert to his greatest hits.
I wasn't surprised that the Motor City wasn't ready for his current work, but I was amazed at how he honored the "big picture" and took it with such a grain of salt. I also admired his willingness to make his audience happy.
Oh! There was one more moment from that evening, which changed the trajectory of my life:
Learning that Miracle Tickets can happen anywhere, not just at a Dead show ;-)