DVD, Blu-ray and TV

A block­buster fes­ti­val show res­cued from ex­ile. By Stephen Dal­ton

UNCUT - - Contents - Stephen Dal­ton

David Bowie at Glas­to­bury, Conny Plank, Sh­eryl Crow and Kenny Everett

THE af­ter­life of David Bowie is prov­ing sur­pris­ingly rich. The on­go­ing Five Years boxsets, live al­bums, reis­sues, re­press­ings, an EP of un­re­leased ma­te­rial. And now his 2000 Glas­ton­bury head­line per­for­mance – un­seen and un­re­leased for 18 years. BBC pro­ducer Mark Cooper filmed the show in its en­tirely but was strictly lim­ited by Bowie to a one-off live broad­cast of just seven songs. Cooper calls it “surely his great­est con­cert since he buried Ziggy Star­dust at Ham­mer­smith in July 1973.”

Now, fol­low­ing years of ne­go­ti­a­tion, the full Glas­ton­bury set fi­nally makes its de­but as a live DVD and al­bum. Bowie was al­ways oddly al­ler­gic to official con­cert films, even in his world-con­quer­ing prime. DA Pen­nebaker’s 1973 Ziggy fea­ture only earned a full re­lease af­ter a decade of wran­gling, while a full-length film of his 1978 Iso­lar II tour, di­rected by David Hem­mings, has been sit­ting in limbo for decades. “I sim­ply didn’t like the way it had been shot,” Bowie told Uncut in 2001. “Now, of course, it looks pretty good and I sus­pect it would make it out some time in the fu­ture.” That was 17 years ago. Keep watch­ing this space.

I wit­nessed this mil­len­nial Glas­ton­bury show first hand. At the time, af­ter nu­mer­ous ’90s tours, see­ing Bowie live did not feel like such a mo­men­tous event. But his­tory has given this per­for­mance ex­tra mythic weight, es­pe­cially in the light of his abrupt re­tire­ment from tour­ing just four years later. Re­vis­it­ing it now in crisp BBC-filmed close-up, this be­spoke two-hour ban­quet of wall-to-wall hits sur­passes my shaky mem­ory of it. There is scarcely a dud per­for­mance or a weak choice among th­ese 21 tracks. It’s a go­daw­ful huge af­fair.

Sporting a tech­ni­color dream­coat de­signed by Alexan­der McQueen, his long blond hair crimped and swept into an asym­met­ri­cal swoosh, Bowie looks fab­u­lous, pre­pos­ter­ous and ab­surdly youth­ful for his 53 years. This strik­ing an­drog­y­nous look pays know­ing ho­mage to his 1971 Hunky Dory al­bum, which co­in­cided with his only ever pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ance at the em­bry­onic Glas­ton­bury Fayre 29 years be­fore. “I left my Bip­perty-Bop­perty hat there, in the farm­house,” Bowie writes in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing archive diary pieces in­cluded in this DVD pack­age. “I won­der if it’s still on the chair? With my bot­tle of cannabis tinc­ture?”

The ca­reer-span­ning set-list draws heav­ily on this proto-glam pe­riod, with a gen­er­ous side or­der of Sta­tion

To Sta­tion. The band – as­sem­bled in Au­gust ’99 for the …hours tour and the VH1 Sto­ry­tellers pro­gramme – in­cludes fa­mil­iar lieu­tenants like avant-jazz pi­anist Mike Gar­son, lat­ter­day bass queen Gail Ann Dorsey and gui­tarist Earl Slick, re­turn­ing to the Bowie fam­ily af­ter more than 20 year away.

Slick chan­nels his gui­tarshred­ding younger self on the ten­sile, tightly wound funk-rocker “Stay” and the mon­u­men­tal prog-soul jug­ger­naut of “Sta­tion To Sta­tion” it­self, whose in­can­ta­tory vo­cals and kab­balah-laced lyrics now sound like early blue­prints for Black­star. An­other rich cut is “Golden Years”, with Bowie fully en­gaged as a vo­cal stylist, constantly tweak­ing the tim­bre and grain of his voice, teas­ing out new har­monies from an­cient ma­te­rial.

Bowie’s in­gra­ti­at­ing cock­neygeezer shtick feels forced at first: “Glas­ton­bury you’ve got a very, very lucky face!” But once the band start cook­ing with rol­lick­ing ver­sions of “Changes”, “Life On Mars?”, “Star­man” and more, he stops look­ing like an ac­tor play­ing a rock star and re­laxes into be­ing the real thing. Four tracks in, he trades his eye-catch­ing coat for a slightly less flam­boy­ant char­coal-grey frock num­ber. “I’m re­ally hot and sweaty,” he grins. “I wore a stupid jacket, I’m too vain to take it off.”

A soar­ing take on “Ab­so­lute Be­gin­ners” and a swash­buck­ling “All The Young Dudes” whip Bowie up into a full-throated frenzy of preen­ing. “The Man Who Sold The World” gets the same lusty treat­ment, with some gor­geous in­ter­twined vo­cals in its fade-out sec­tion. Mean­while, the band throw in a cou­ple of false starts. Al­ways a tricky prospect live, with a ten­dency to plod, “He­roes” opens as a gen­tle bluesy stroll be­fore pow­er­ing up into the shud­der­ing edge-of-ma­nia an­them it needs to be. Like­wise, “Let’s Dance” be­gins as a breezy fla­menco-pop bal­lad be­fore that knife-sharp Nile Rodgers ar­range­ment kicks in around the first cho­rus. The only real weak­ling here is a de­caf­feinated “Fame”, which sorely lacks the sour coke-hang­over bite of its Len­non-as­sisted orig­i­nal.

What­ever Bowie’s ob­jec­tions to shar­ing this per­for­mance 18 years ago, they seem ill-con­ceived to­day. When it ends, he is on his knees, mim­ing air gui­tar and bow­ing ef­fu­sively to the Glas­ton­bury crowd. He’s in the best-sell­ing show. The great­est since he killed off Ziggy? Ar­guably, but cer­tainly an au­tum­nal peak.

Bowie at Glas­ton­bury 2000, with his frock coat and hunky Dory hair-do

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