Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Post-Bowie World

This is where the attempted clever opening would go, where I would welcome you to the eastern edge of the west.

It seems superfluous to do that today. Despite the somber tone so far, this is more about happy things than not. Let's explore.

David Bowie died last week. As has been much ballyhooed all over the Internet and throughout the various media, he was a creative inspiration, a genius musician and wonderful artist. He challenged himself to be as good as he could be. He made it all right for the geeks and the weirdos to be geeks and weirdos. If he was only ever remembered for his theatricality and the characters he created he would be a giant. But he pushed boundaries and expectations. Constantly. He made music that reflected the times he composed it in. He was part of a band (Tin Machine) that deserved much wider recognition. He influenced fashion and commented on fame and celebrity in ways that connected with everyone. He was an actor who gave us memorable performances.

For me, I grew up with the hits on rock radio. He blew up with the advent of MTV and hit my generation with the Let's Dance album and its Serious Moonlight tour. The first album I bought of his was Never Let Me Down. I saw the tour, Glass Spider, with Peter Frampton on guitar (a 70s classic rock staple) and Toni Basil (an 80s one hit wonder) running the choreography. Not my first concert by a long stretch but the one that showed me the power of art in music. Go look it up and watch the videos. Then think about the time it landed. It was a Broadway production, a video in real life.

I thought about it all the way home. I kept the program from the show for decades and passed it on to someone I knew would appreciate it when I decluttered some a while back.

Several years later he toured Sound+Vision, claiming that it would be the last tour where he'd guarantee he'd play all his big hits. I went with my best friend and my girlfriend and heard all the songs he didn't play during Glass Spider. Adrian Belew opened with his band and then came back to play guitar for the main show. It was pure magic that ended with more energy than the rest of the show combined.

His death hasn't hit me as hard as some other celebrity deaths (John Lennon and Robin Williams) but it's no less a void in my entertainment and inspiration. The Sound+Vision show and his comments later that he wouldn't have the hits to rely on in building future shows made me think about how I approached my own art on subconscious levels. Over the course of the next decades he would float up and down in my inspiration stream. His collaboration with Trent Reznor is notable in that he reached yet another generation by challenging himself to be different and/or better.

Which is as much his legacy as his music.

Now we have to turn and face the strange without Mr. Bowie. Those of us who grew up with his music as it was released - whether from the beginning, the middle or the end - are fortunate to have been on the same planet as him. Most of us never met him but we know a part of him.

And that's something to be grateful for.


keth said...

Which was the tour with him and the white screen behind him? I remember being completely mesmerized at the show.

Jason Arnett said...

It wasn't Glass Spider. It might've been Sound+Vision. I remember that one being pretty stripped down in comparison.