A tall blond man enters the stagelight with an acoustic guitar. The crowd screams, at this concert there are thousands. He seems so comfortable up there, like he just walked into his living room. He asks the crowd “Have you got the stamina?”, they cheer, he laughs and throws a smile at the band behind him. But then in a shift, his eyes change, and suddenly it’s as if he’s alone, and lonely, at night maybe, sitting on a windowsill looking over the lights of a city.
One strum of the acoustic and he sings the opening to “Rock n Roll Suicide”:
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth. You pull on a finger, then another finger, then cigarette.
The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget. Ohhh how how how, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide.
David Bowie has been writing, singing and playing since the 1960’s. And the videos of him performing live are some of the most potent performances out there. At times he seems like he’s singing just to you and you alone. Then he switches into working the crowd into a dynamic frenzy. The weight of his persona is heavy. Who he is is undeniably something he struggles with. From song to song he seems to fight the dark side like some alternative rock hero.
When you talk to fans who love Bowie as much as I do, we all have different favorites. Tiffany loves the albums “Scary Monsters” and “Hunky Dory”. Jason loves it all, and has a “Bowie day” every week where he listens to B all day long. Mishka likes to put the song “Quicksand” on repeat. “Quicksand” is also one of my favorites. One of his most wordy songs, it’s obvious from the writing that Bowie likes to flirt with the darkness. So literary, he references Nietsche’s superman and Crowley’s Golden Dawn. Knocks superficial religion and its hold on the general public. To me in this song he’s talking mostly about the fact that the ego is not what’s important. In the struggle between flesh and hope, it’s the soul that matters.
Don’t believe in yourself. Don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release…
I’m not a prophet or a stone age man. Just a mortal with the potential of a superman I’m living on.
I’m tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien. Can’t take my eyes off the great salvation of bullshit faith.
Over the years he’s worn hundreds of costumes, and crossed many style boundaries in music and fashion. But somehow he stays to the center. He knows who he is… It reminds me of the way we’re given so many ways to express ourselves these days, with all the turns of technology it would be easy to lose track of what you’re doing. But it boils down staying true, committing to community… to putting across your humanity, your struggles, your desires. That’s what’s important.
The Seattle Rock Orchestra will perform Bowie covers tonight (Friday) at the Moore Theatre. Along with the orchestra there’s a full chorus. The Kindness Kind lead the show. Jon Auer from the Posies and Ian Williams from The Thoughts will play the man himself. They were in the KEXP studios this week and sounded fantastic.
Michele Myers spins on KEXP 90.3 FM Saturdays from 3-6pm. Every week she chooses a favorite artist to feature, and this week will play 3 Bowie songs in a row at 5pm. She also is the producer of KEXP Documentaries and a host for KEXP in New York City for our show Wake Up on WNYE 91.5FM.