My last David Bowie gig – and the UK’s as well.
David Bowie’s headlining set at the Isle of Wight festival in 2004 marks the end of an era. For me, it was my last ever David Bowie gig, less than a year after I first got the chance to see him. More significantly, it would be his last ever show in the UK, before health issues took him away from the live scene pretty much for good.
Of course, none of us knew that on this gentle summer’s evening – probably not even David himself. But it makes reflecting on this gig now a strange and frustrating experience. Had I known of its significance, I’m sure I would have made the greatest effort possible to record every little nuance and moment of the show in my diary. But, as mentioned in recent posts, my life had gone in unexpected directions in 2004, with a myriad of new and exciting people and experiences distracting my attention at all times. All of which meant that I no longer felt compelled to scribble down every intricate detail about the gigs I was going to.
And so, for a legendary gig such as this, I have an incredibly paltry report in my diary. First, I just noted down the two songs that he’d played that I hadn’t previously witness live, which were “Station to Station” and “Quicksand” – the latter being a particular favourite of mine. Then, I wrote a whole paragraph about the gig itself – or more accurately, about my company for this particular show. Here is the paragraph in its entirety:
‘Oh I was down the front. Spent all day with a mad Ziggy-haired Italian I’d previously met at Wembley. It was her 108th Bowie gig, and her birthday. She had a banner declaring that fact, which I helped her hold up. David pointed at it once.’
Very much not an in-depth review. Luckily, I was also keeping a livejournal at the time, mostly devoted to my new geeky interests such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and I wrote a much longer report of the day in there to share with my online fandom friends. First, I went through the bands of the day leading up to Bowie. There was Suzanne Vega, who I was ‘not particularly interested in, but I enjoyed her set a lot. Lovely mellow tunes perfect for a breezy summery day.’ Following this is was Delays, a band I was very much falling in love with at the time.
‘They were bloody marvellous. I can see they’re well on their way to becoming one of my favourite bands. Great tunes, just a little bit different to what all the other indie bands are doing at the moment. Can’t underestimate the importance of a good keyboard player. And the singer! He’s so amazingly pretty, and has a voice that can soar from angelic falsetto to gravelly rawk howling in the blink of an eye. I am in love.‘
Then there was Snow Patrol – ‘quite good‘ – and the Charlatans – ‘brilliant‘. But just when it seemed like the day was going to be an entirely excellent one, disaster struck, in the shape of something I really really do not enjoy – football.
‘It was with much dismay, when I read the running order before coming to the festival, that I read that football would be shown in between the Charlatans and Bowie. But I was there, at the barrier with about 12 billion people crammed behind me, so clearly I was not going anywhere. So I thought I’d watch the match and see what all the fuss is about. I’m still wondering. I have to say, it was the most boring hour I’ve endured in a long time. Resolute proof, if any was needed, that football is really Not My Thing.’
But then, finally, it the moment we had been waiting for, and I wrote a full three paragraphs about it!
‘At least when it was over David Bowie was on straight away, and with the extra time they’d managed to do up his stage set with a small platform in the front and a big screen at the back. And David was as amazing, sexy and godlike as ever.
The set hadn’t changed much from the gigs I saw last November with two notable exceptions. One was “Quicksand”, one of my all time favourite Bowie songs and I have to admit, it got me a bit tearful. He introduced it as ‘the song from Hunky Dory you probably don’t know’. Clearly underestimating the legions of faithful obsessives in the crowd.
The other added extra was, unbelievably, “Station to Station”, in all its ten minute glory. The lady next to me went totally berserk with joy at this point, amazing considering it was her 108th Bowie gig. (It was my 7th.) It was her birthday, and she had a banner telling David this fact (not surprisingly, he recognises her by now) which I helped her hold up. I think she was hoping he might say something, which he did not, but he did acknowledge the banner by pointing at it. Which was nice, as it meant for a second he must have been looking at me :)’
It’s not quite the in-depth record I wish I had for this gig, but it will have to do. However, I do have one further memento from this day. As well as my Italian gig buddy, I made another new acquaintance that day. I’d found myself just in front of a lady in the crowd who was grappling with a huge professional camera, and she asked me if I’d mind letting her in front of me for a few songs so she could take some photos. I did so, and as a thank you, she later sent me the following picture from the night in the post, with the attached note:
I have tried to find if Kelly Dawn Sharp is still working as a photographer, but Google only brings up a Kelly Sharp who does wedding photography in America. Could this be her? Who knows! In any case, I’m glad I found myself in her vicinity that day, as it at least means that I have this unique memento of my last ever David Bowie concert.
I may not be able to recollect very much of this gig now, but one thing I know for sure is that it would have infused me with joy just as my gigs the previous November had. It took me a long time to get the chance to see Bowie live, but once the opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And of course, despite the sparseness of my recorded memories of this gig, there’s one thing that matters more than anything else: I was there.