By Ray Bennett
One of the very good things about working at The Windsor Star in the early 1970s was that I was able to see some of the greatest entertainers perform across the river in Detroit City. One of them was a young Englishman whose alter ego went by the name of Ziggy Stardust. I reviewed his first Detroit show in The Windsor Star on Oct. 10 1972. Here’s how it went:
Remember the name. In rock ‘n’ roll there was Presley, the Beatles and now there is David Bowie.
Bowie is a freaky young Englishman who writes, plays and sings rock’n’roll at the most mature and articulate level it has ever attained.
A sensation in England, but little known in North America, Bowie played Detroit’s Fisher Theatre Sunday and knocked the sell-out crowd for six.
Looking like the joker from a bizarre deck of cards in make-up, eyeliner and green and orange jump suit, Bowie knifed back and forth across the sedate Fisher stage in a spectacular performance of pure theatre.
With a three-man group backing him, he moved from searing hard rock to dramatic mood pieces to plaintive cries from the heart and back again.
Bowie comes to North American with four albums behind him and a current growing hit The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. He also brings the reputation that he’d rather swish than fight.
Certainly the electricity he generates can be taken in whichever current turns you on – a.c. or d.c. Some of the prettiest young women in the audience were guys. His earlier career pronouncements of his homosexuality and his later declaration that he is bisexual are irrelevant but do add to the ambiguity of the man and the performer.
He says he is really two people – David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust, the forlorn mistreated soul he sings about on his album. He has a song out now that is a big hit in England called John, I’m Only Dancing and it takes several hearings before you can decide whether he’s apologising to a guy for dancing with his girlfriend or apologising to his own boyfriend for dancing with a girl.
His act, produced splendidly, utilised all the space the large Fisher stage has. Sitting in the belly of the theatre, looking up at the stage, the excellent lighting made you feel you were sitting on the side of a hill as Bowie and his men danced on the crest with a radiant sunset behind.
And Bowie is no fool on the hill. His songs deal with outer space and inner space, and touch deep. Songs such as “Starman”, “Lady Stardust”, and “Moonage Daydream” are intelligent lyrically and musically.
Drummer Mick Woodmansey stays hidden behind his pile of drums. Bass guitarist Trevor Bolder shuffles about like a cross-eye pixie with long black hair and bushy grey sideburns. And incredible lead guitarist Mick Ronson is a silver apparition with long white hair.
Bowie, slim, red-haired and with warm, piercing eyes that reach into the audience, is in command of it all.
He comes from South London and always wanted to be a rock star. He takes it very seriously but never loses his obvious sense of humour. In an era of parody and self-consciousness David Bowie is a refreshingly original, un-self-conscious talent whose effect on rock ‘n’ roll and music generally has only just begun.