It must be time for some more Bowie releases, it's been what, a whole month since the release of a huge box set of 80's material. So now we get not one, but two chunks of previously-unreleased live material. The big one is the first-ever release of a beloved later show in his career, the 2000 concert at Glastonbury Festival in England. It was the first time Bowie had played the festival since 1971, when it was a little hippy thing, and so was he. Now he was closing the show in front of 250,000 or so.
Bowie had spent the '90's in partial denial of his past. He famously announced he was "retiring" his hits after the Sound & Vision tour of 1990, and running off with Tin Machine. That noisy group only lasted a couple of albums and tours, and throughout the rest of the decade, Bowie did several lesser-loved albums and stuck somewhat to his pledge, leaning heavily on later albums with only a handful of old favourites being trotted out. But the Glastonbury show felt different; he'd be back home, in front of a huge crowd that was there for the spectacle. Bowie decided it was time to embrace the fame again.
He hadn't toured in a year, so a couple of warm-up shows were done in NYC before hitting the festival. The band was still a little ragged, but for Bowie, this turned out to be fun. He turned it on for the huge crowd, hamming the vocals in places, smiling lots and enjoying the effects of these great and well-loved songs. After a relative calm opening number, his Station To Station song Wild Is The Wind, the hits came fast and often. China Girl, Changes, Ashes To Ashes and Rebel Rebel all hit the spot, and Absolute Beginners was a great addition, one of his best soundtrack songs from the '80's. When he did dip into later albums, he chose well, Little Wonder and Hallo Spaceboy two of his better, crowd-pleasing songs. Station To Station was perhaps the highlight, the power of that cut perfectly suited to a massive outdoor show. His version of Under Pressure, with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey taking Freddie Mercury's part, was a graceful close to the main set, and the encores of Ziggy Stardust, "Heroes" and Let's Dance took it over the top. In a classic Bowie move, he left the crowd with a reminder he was still making strong music, the intense I'm Afraid Of Americans, which seems quite a prescient statement these days.
I also got a kick out of seeing Canadian singer-songwriter Emm Gryner in the band, doing backing vocals and keyboard parts, part of her two-years in his employ. The set comes as either a 3-LP set or a two CD/DVD combo, thanks to the BBC being there to capture the show, and it's great to see the joy on Bowie's face during the show.