The July 3rd, 1973 historic concert of the 'leper Messiah'. This was to be David Bowie's last concert with the Ziggy persona and the Spiders from Mars. A great medley of 'Wild Eyed Boy From...
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The July 3rd, 1973 historic concert of the 'leper Messiah'. This was to be David Bowie's last concert with the Ziggy persona and the Spiders from Mars. A great medley of 'Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud'/'All The Young Dudes'/'Oh! You Pretty Things', a Lou Reed cover, and a Rolling Stones cover are but some of the highlights.Written by
RCA requested that many references to, mostly, death and suicide in Bowie's lyrics should be bleeped. Pennebaker gave way. But he only bleeped the mono-sound negative, while the stereo film print and soundtrack remained non-bleeped. See more »
D A Pennebaker had already filmed icons like Dylan and Lennon before getting the gig to film David Bowie's "farewell" concert at London Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973. Bowie was huge in Britain at the time but had yet to break America which makes me tend to think the assignment came to him rather than the other way round.
Actually as a great fan of glam rock back in the day (being 13 at the time of the movie's shooting date, how could I not be, 1972-73, being glam's heyday here), I do remember the fuss about this being Bowie's last show, giving the concert great curiosity, not to mention envy value at the time to fans in the sticks like me. To discover that this historic show was captured in full was a great and welcome surprise to me.
That said, the film-maker's approach to the concert is pretty conservative actually as we get a little bit of pre-show scene-setting, with Bowie getting made-up in his dressing room, chatting to his wife Angie, while cutting in scenes of his adoring, often lookalike fans outside. Without too much delay, however, the show's on and Bowie and his band, the latter brilliantly led by Mick Ronson on lead guitar, tear into a great set, culminating in the famous, if misleading "This is our last show" quote and the bathetic euphoria which greets final song "Rock and Roll Suicide".
In between, we get four costume changes, a goodly selection of numbers from his just-released "Aladdin Sane" album (but no "Jean Genie" sadly!), plenty, naturally from the "Ziggy Stardust" album but also tracks from some of his earlier albums. Unlike other rock-movies by the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, Bowie and the band are on fine form, with confidence exuding from the singer's every phrase and move.
Yes, some tracks go on too long, it was a shame that two of his best tunes ("All The Young Dudes" and "Oh! You Pretty Things) get rather thrown away in a medley, but against that there are great covers of Jacques Brel's "My Death" and the Velvets' "White Light White Heat", although I'm still undecided at what to make of the somewhat ridiculous mine-sequence during an almost never-ending version of "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud". Pennebaker's editing is adequate if, as I say, unimaginative, making the most of the no doubt limited camera numbers available to him, but thereafter just cutting from Bowie and Ronson (you barely see the rest of the band) to the ecstatic audience. Somehow Ringo Starr, director of Bowie friend and rival Marc Bolan's "Born To Boogie" movie the previous year, appears in Bowie's dressing room between songs casting an envious eye no doubt on a missed opportunity behind the lens again.
Anyway, I was rapt by this exciting glimpse of a top artist on top form, masterminding his destiny to a "T", delivering a great rock and roll show in the process.
What of course differentiates this show to contemporary rock concerts is that Bowie treats the performance itself as musical theatre, quite literally, a performance artist if ever there was one.
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