23 January 2016

I Was At David Bowie's Last Evert Concert

David Bowie Hurricane Festival
On Monday 11 January I was getting my stuff together ready to leave the house for work and listening to the Today Show on BBC Radio 4 as usual, when it was mentioned on the 7am news that they were getting early reports that David Bowie had died. 

I was devastated and it left me in a strange mood for the rest of the day. 

The outpouring of grief exemplified just how important he was too so many people and how far and deep his influence reached. He always seemed to be present, even when he actually wasn't like in his later days, because his work is woven deep in to the fabric of our culture - he has helped to shape and define so much of it. He is our Elvis, our Frank Sinatra, our John Lennon. 

Bowie was ground-zero for a lot of the music I got in to while growing up in the 90s. Bands like The Cure, REM, and Smashing Pumpkins all cited him as an influence. He even tipped his hat to two of those bands when he invited Robert Smith and Billy Corgan to join him at his 50th Birthday Concert in New York in 1997.

Although he had kept a low-profile during the last few years of his life, and there had been rumours of ill-health for a while ever since his heart attack in 2004, he had been going through a period of productivity and creativity that started with the surprise release of The Next Day in 2013. 

Bowie was always there. You never thought of him not being around, it didn't seem possible. The news of his cancer was a closely guarded secret, we didn't know he was seriously ill. Only days before he had released Blackstar on his 69th birthday and receiving some of the best reviews of his career. The news of his death came out of the blue and probably hit harder because of it, we didn't have time to prepare. 

I'm still gutted to think that Bowie is no longer around. Although he has left a legacy that will live on forever. His music will always be with us. On the day that Blackstar was released I posted on my Facebook that I was at his (to date) last ever concert. He made a couple of one-off appearances after that, but it was his final full David Bowie headline show. 

It was at the 2004 Hurricane Festival in Schee├čel, Germany. He was one of the headliners of the festival along with The Cure. I had gone there with my friends Ben and Marc. I had just finished university that summer and we were all skint students and made our way to the festival in the cheapest possible way - by coach from Nottingham. The journey took 24 hours and was awful, but the festival was good fun, sunny with lots of cheap beer and great music. 

Bowie headlined the second night of the festival. It was part if his A Reality Tour, his longest series of shows for a few years. I wish I could say that my memories of his set are crystal clear, but they're not, sullied by beer and time with it being 11 and a half years ago. I do recall that I missed the first few songs because I was watching Mogwai finish-up on the second stage, but got to Bowie to see the majority of his hit-packed, career-spanning set. I definitely remember China Girl with Earl Slick's gloriously over-the-top interpretation of that songs main riff, so I must have been there from at least that song onwards. 
As this Rolling Stone article states, and if you look back at the videos of his performance, dressed in a hoodie (although it should be noted that he was suited and booted earlier in the set), he doesn't look great, and his previous show had been cut short. But from what I recall he was very talkative in between the songs and gave his all when performing. You couldn't tell from being in the crowd that anything was wrong with him. It's strange to think that he was actually having a heart attack up on that stage, but he gave a fully committed performance until the very end. A true and dedicated performer.

It's weird and sad to think that it was the last time those magnificent songs would be sung by the great man responsible for writing them. I'm just honoured that I got to see him and I was there to witness it. 

RIP David Bowie.  

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