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David Bowie
Quart Festival, Norway 03.07.2002  

David Bowie could've been the hero of my youth. I was too young to identify with the Woodstock nation and too involved in other kinds of music when the first wave of punk bands hit the stage. Bowie would've fit perfectly along with the Sweet and Slade singles. Maybe Ziggy's costumes were too far out for my tender age. His pictures were often present in the hit & glitter magazines I occasionally bought at the time. It wasn't until 1975 I got familiar with his music, though. Pinups was the LP (!) and after a few spins I was convinced. It was great; I was ready for more! Unfortunately my next encounter was David Live. Detroit soul wasn't my cuppa tea at the time ("Panic in Detroit" all right), and Young Americans soon afterwards didn't make matters much better. Bowie was written off as a one-album artist! If only I'd known...

When my synthesizer friends started to rave about Low and Heroes a few years later I was only moderately interested. After closer listening I had to admit the albums had lots of moments. With 1980's Scary Monsters I really realised I'd missed something. An album with Bowie, Eno and Robert Fripp up front couldn't fail (well, Heroes, too), three of the older artists to survive the 70s without loosing any respectability or dignity. And that simultaneously smooth and raw production... I finally started to dig into Bowie's back-catalogue and discovered treasures such as Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust.

Twentysomething years later news of a Bowie performance at the Quart Festival in Kristiansand on the southern coast of Norway, close to my origins, was too good an opportunity to be missed. He was one of the major headlines of the five days festival and by far the oldest of them among relatively new and otherwise hip names on the bill. We only had the guts to stay for one day. A bit of rain and too many posh teenagers more interested in each other and each other's clothes, haircuts, piercings etc. proved the decision to be right. Among the many bands to experience, The White Stripes of Detroit (no panic at all!) alone would've saved my day. If you're into minimalistic perverted versions of American popular music of the 20th century, look no further. Even more fun than on record, check out reviews and an interview in earlier Luna menus. An exhilarating version of "Jolene" made Bowie exclaim he would only play Dolly Parton songs all evening after he'd entered the stage an hour later. Anyway, he started with only piano accompany, a low-voiced "Life On Mars?" until the rest of the band entered midway through. What a start! The rest of the show was a mixture of other greatest hits ("Changes", "Heroes", "Ashes To Ashes", "Fashion"...), songs from Low ("Speed Of Life", "A New Career In A New Town" and "Sound And Vision"), from the new album Heathen (Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting For You", "Slip Away", "5.15 The Angels Have Gone", "Everyone Says Hi"...) and a few other recent songs ("Hallo Spaceboy" from Outside among them). The biggest surprise was perhaps the inclusion of his most calculated hits (to these ears) "Let's Dance" and Iggy's "China Girl". The former started slowly with Spanish guitar. I didn't realise which song they were playing until it exploded. "Afraid", Pixies' "Cactus" and the title track were highlights off Heathen (his best album in ehrrrr... 22 years if you ask me). The latter managed to keep the boys and girls swinging after "Heroes" had finished. The somewhat distant thin white duke had brought an experienced band along. Carlos Alomar wasn't among them but three other guitarists had no problems to fill the gaps. And bassist and backing vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey is a firework in her own right. One of the last encores was "I'm Afraid Of Americans" off Earthling. The sun had faded in the north an hour earlier, a bit of rain had come in from the sea and it was passed midnight. I don't know if it was intentionally to play that particular song at the start of 4th of July, but very appropriate if you ask me. I'm getting more and more terrified each time that not-quite-democratic-elected-president-of-theirs opens his mouth to say something about international affairs. Anyways, David - citizen of New York - gave the elderly what we wanted. Ziggy Stardust was the last encore. And Ziggy still played guitar! We didn't get the second set of encores with songs from Low that's been presented occasionally lately. Neither David nor Ziggy stayed overnight. They flew over the sea a little later for some other planet.

The funniest part of the show to me was one of the locals from Kristiansand. He was probably around 50, grey-haired, not quite sober, running and slipping around and singing along to all the songs older than 1983. He seemed to have been waiting for Bowie to arrive in his hometown for the last 25 years. I guess it was a once in a lifetime experience.

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You may also want to check out our David Bowie articles/reviews: Blackstar, Hunky Dory, Lazarus, Studio albums, 1967-2016.

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