The Young American
Soul Tour Concert Reviews (October)
Minneapolis Tribune 7 October 1974 - Music Though less theatrical, I'm sure, than the 6,700 fans expected, David Bowie's first Twin Cities concert—Saturday night at the St. Paul Civic Center Arena—offered a powerful, high-energy evening: positive proof of Bowie's far-reaching, innovative talents. Saturday night was, in fact, the debut of Bowie's latest stage concept, a much more straightforward musical presentation than that or the elaborately staged and choreographed tour he made last summer. At one point during that tour, Bowie sang "Space Oddity," his first big hit, into a telephone while being lowered by a crane from a blood-dripping skyscraper. The new format resembles an old nightclub revue, the setting no more than the band itself with a white piano plus a large screen upstage (it's a white carpet, I'm told) used minimally for projections. The first half of the show features Bowie's back-up group ----- six singers and seven instrumentalists — under the expert leadership (and piano work) of long-time Bowie associate Mike Garson. Alter a vigorous half-hour from Garson and company and an intermission, Bowie came out, his relatively conservative attire (modified Gatsby and a 1950s coif) in marked distinction to some fans in the audience who, in homage to the King of Glitter Rock, made do with feathers, sequins, capes and all manner of facial make-up.   It was as if Bowie were telling his audience he needs little of the trapping of glitter in order to continue making his mark as a singer-composer – a point made obvious as the evening progressed, however skeptical one might have been a couple of years ago when the Bowie name and records came to this country. Bowie, 27, is not yet the Superstar in the U.S. that he is in his native England. Proclamations from publicity-types and a number of rock critics that he will be the major figure in '70s rock have yet to be borne out. Bowie certainly ranks high composer. Besides his gift for infectious melody, there is the fact that Bowie is the only pop-culture artist of this decade who has really taken the medium in a new direction. His themes of science-fantasy (and his persona of the extraterrestrial rock singer, Ziggy Stardust) serve as metaphors tor the drug experience, for teen-age alienation and for the pan-sexuality of some members of his audience. Bowie has a vision in other words, however nihilistic that visition might be, as in his newest album, "Diamond Dogs." And his conception of rock-as-theater is a worthy amalgam, despite the objections of many who see it as a distortion of the genre's musical basics. MICHAEL ANTHONY Minneapolis Star 7 October 1974 – David Bowie glitters less in new rock act If any style has marked rock music thus far in the 1970s, it has been glitter rock, with its emphasis on theatrics. Alice Cooper and Lou Reed has been dominated by British artists, most notably David Bowie. Bowie has been hailed as the next Elvis, next Dylan and the next Beatles, even though the singer-songwriter has become better known for his flamboyant, style-setting, bisexual image than his wholly original science-fiction rock and roll. Although a hero in England, Bowie has never been a commercial recording success in the United States. His popular stage show, however, has been reputed to be the ultimate in rock histrionics. Bowie made his first Twin Cities appearance Saturday at the St. Paul Civic Center Arena, and unexpectedly King Glitter had chosen that night to debut his revamped act.   Bowie has exchanged his resplendent space-suit costume and elaborate make-up for a natty, double-breasted waistcoat, navy shirt, plaid cravat and white pantaloons. He has replaced his cosmic British with the predominately black Mike Garson Orchestra, rearranged his material and eliminated the theatrics in favor of a show that is as slick as Elvis Presley's. During his 75-minute performance, Bowie obliged the crowd with his old favorites like "Changes," "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and "The Jean Genie." But the treatments of •songs such as "Rebel, Rebel" and "Diamond Dogs" were closer to straight-ahead rock than the less accessible, spacey version heard on his current album, "Diamond Dogs." The second half of the set featured new material from Bowie's coming eighth album. The songs, like Bowie's new stage show, lacked the distinctiveness and creativity of Bowie's early work. The rhythm-and-blues style arrangements were more accessible and more melodic than Bowie's earlier and most successful pieces. The songs seemed starkly simple in content compared to the poetic vision evidenced on albums like "Hunky Dory" and "Ziggy Stardust." Even though he has not lost any of his over-whelming charisma, Bowie, in attempting to shed the trappings of stardom, is ironically slipping into the mainstream. He was undeniably entertaining but slickness erased many expectations. The sparse crowd of nearly 7,000 (Bowie usually plays to sold out houses) responded faithfully, though not as frenetically as expected. Their dress, like Bowie's, was surprisingly short on glitter. The Garson Orchestra, featuring Bowie's six back-up singers, opened the concert with a bland set of faceless pop soul more befitting of a club than a concert stage, especially Bowie's. JON BREAM The Indianapolis Star 12 October 1974 – Bowie Show Is Letdown David Bowie, a big rock star, was at the Indiana Convention-Exposition Center Tuesday, straight from wild, sellout smashes on the West Coast. Some people waited as long as two hours, to see him because to many, Bowie is a great concert experience. WHAT A LETDOWN! Was this the real Bowie? Where was the colored hair and painted face that many fans were expecting and had imitated? Bowie, appearing in N% bite pants and a steel-blue shirt and tie, did a lot of pelvic movement but was more reminiscent of Elvis Presley. Not even the characteristic Bowie haircut adorned the star's head. Not only was the concert a letdown, but it also was a rip-off. The ticket prices were jacked up to compensate for the thousands of unusable seats where sightlines were blocked by two mountains of speakers and other electrical equipment that flanked the stage but did not seem to add anything to the show. THE MAIN problem, though, was with Bowie himself. If he had wanted to appear as an artist and not a showman, as some of his faithful tried to rationalize, he should have performed more new material not the wild music of his past performances. Instead, he did numbers like "Changes" and "Sorrow"—which are about two years old. The performance did have some highlights, though. With the help of a backdrop to con-vey feeling, hot and heavy tunes like "1984" and "Never, Never" led to the wild climax of "Diamond Dogs." Bowie pranced and did some pantomime on stage, even playing a little harmonica to the old Beatle hit, "Love Me Do," and accompanying himself on guitar during “Young America." IF HE HAD stopped there the concert would have been better than average. But he then dragged himself through some slow-paced tunes that included his latest release, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," which he bragged would make the Top 40 single's chart but which has nothing new in it. Bowie's background chorus band, which came on first to warm up the audience, was not even lukewarm. Only a great drum and piano mix, "Love, Sometimes I Feel Blue," had any effect on the audience. Maybe Bowie was sick or something. But the impression one got was that this was not the real David Bowie he must have been resting up for some other concert someplace else. PAUL CROWE The Capital Times 12 October 1974 – David Bowie transcends cheap, exploitive image David Bowie is the market item year. "Madison Avenue 's number one example of the manufactured need," thought I. You can handle Alice Cooper's midnight-movie gore gags, folks, but could you go for coquettish-transvestitism, the glitter on the cheek, and the batting eyelash? You bet you could, and you'd pay well for it, $7.50 a seat for down-front. Bowie was too logical a phenomenon to be believed. He was the step after Mick Jagger. What Jagger merely implied, Bowie could proclaim blatantly in every flick of his limp wrist. I had the image of a group of unprincipled but well-suited men sitting somewhere in a Manhattan skyscraper planning his success: "Well, T. J., I'm afraid sales aren't going as well as we had hoped for the combination air freshener and mouth wash, but one of our personal management clients has this frail English rock singer who likes to put on girl's clothes, and we thought, what with the decadence thing, and the bisexuality thing, and the glitter thing, well, that we might be able to make this freak a star and pick up a few million in the bargain. Believe me, the kids are ripe for it." “Good idea, C. Z. Give it the works." So the Bowie phenomenon was hatched, or so I thought. When his face was splashed across the cover of every rock periodical in the country, he looked like the synthetic fulfillment of a cynical ad-man's dream. Consequently, I read little of the vast quantity of newsprint devoted to him. I wanted no part of sexual liberation out of a spray can. But comes Bowie to the Coliseum, and I am humbled. If my instincts have any credibility at all in these matters, I’ll say, after watching him Thursday night, that Bowie is the star of the decade, the Frank Sinatra of the Seventies, if you will (and you probably won't). His on-stage magnetism skirts the grotesque, but woos the audience so lovingly that he emerges almost wholesome. He has more than charisma, though; he has a voice, a voice that is entirely his own in spite of what it has in common with Rod Stewart and, yes, I swear, even Sinatra. His music is not stunningly brilliant, but it is obviously created with imagination and seriousness. He works with six back-up singers and seven musicians in arrangements that are fresh and thoroughly developed. But, more important than that, he writes songs that are poignant, desperate, sincere and perhaps even literate, especially if you happen to be a teenager in 1974.   Of course traditional aesthetic virtues mean little to a performer's success or failure. It's the other stuff, the less definable stuff, that makes him compelling. He appeared Friday night in male dress, more or less, a kind of forties version of unisex. He wore silver gray suspendered pants pegged at the ankle, a short, double- breasted tuxedo Jacket, blue-shirt, plaid tie, and yellow socks. His movements were more sexual than sensual. He is the master of the thrashing bump and great, hip-rolling grind. He walks about almost gracelessly, always stepping toe-first. His frame is gaunt, even pathetic. He drags the microphone around. It seems too heavy for him, though he does more with it as a prop than Tina Turner ever dreamed of.   His flashing, boyish, sinister but totally sympathetic face seemed at times to caress individual members of the audience. And his hands, his incredible hands, are like those of maybe Lillian Gish. He is the ultimate boychild-girlchild and clearly loves his admirers. "It's my pleasure, my privilege to be here," he said as he coiled himself coyly at the foot of the stage to begin singing a ballad, and it was, I think, the second time that I've believed those words from a performer. Bowie is the devil incarnate at times: when, for instance, his tongue lashes the surface of his glistening, conspicuous, perfectly-formed teeth. He reminds one of a tragic pimp who has his throat slit in a cheap French film, or the little Prince after amphetamine. But he remains attractive somehow, a babe at the mercy of the world, and the audience reaches up fanatically to touch him, comfort him perhaps. ROBERT LA BRASCA The Wisconsin State Journal 12 October 1974 - Most Unkindest Cut for Bowie: He’s a Bore Take away the gimmicks and the glitter, drop the overt decadence, and what have you got left? Boredom. AND THAT was David Bowie at the Dane County Coliseum Friday night. Stripped of the garish characteristics of his early career, he has straightened his act out measurably to the point where he has come down with a bad case of tedium. Bowie appeared before a crowd 5,000 that glittered a lot more than he did, he having ditched the old bi-sexual haircut rand makeup a still a little shading around the eyes, however, presumably for old times sake. His haircut now is a direct throwback to that of the fabulous comb man, Edd (Kookie) Byrnes, and Bowie bore a startling resemblance to the eminently forgettable soft rocker, Bobby Rydell. BOWIE LAUNCHED into 1½  hours of middle-of-the-road rock. Musically, the set was drab. From the seven musicians and six soul shouters backing him up the best thing the audience got to hear was some very pleasant alto sax fill lines. On the other hand, if you really like your concerts bereft of any musical benefits, there was a lot going on. Bowie's best instrument is his painfully emaciated body. lie has a suggestive pelvic thrust that makes Presley in his prime look like a rank amateur. AND HE IS a better mime than a singer - the lyrics are invariably accompanied by frenzied hand and body movements, calculated presumably to arouse the crowd to the same obviously fevered pitch the performer himself has already attained. Bowie also plays to an audience well, particularly the little-girl-in the front-row bit. David, for instance, wipes his brow with a tiny handkerchief, hurls it into the crowd, where a young woman scrambles for it. He watches with interest, then laughs and tosses back his head with an air of utter arrogance, secure in his own sexuality. THE RESULT of all this is that a portion of the crowd rushes the stage near the concert's end to reach out to touch the hem of his garment. Of course, if you had just paid $7.50 for this non-event, you might rush the stage for more hostile reasons. There is no danger, here however, because David is ringed i by some young gentlemen who look like graduates of the Soviet Olympic weightlifting team. So David is saved and the faithful get the necessary catharsis. For most of the crowd, however the reaction is summed up best by two comments heard while heading toward the exit. To wit: "The next time that bleep plays here it'll be to an empty house," and "The James Gang was better the second time." MICHAEL BAUMAN The Star Press 13 October 1974 – David Bowie’s Concert: Worst Experience in Rock It's not all David Bowie's' fault, but his concert of this past Tuesday was one of my worst experiences in rock. I said it wasn't all his fault, but first let me cover what was his problem. Bowie has ruined most of his  numbers by male and female backing vocal group that almost obliterate his excellent vocal work. This ruined all tunes, save two, much in the same way that Paul Simon has made mockeries of his own tunes with background singers. The responsible person for the arrangements is probably Bowie and for that he should never arrange for a live performance again. I wish the live album he has coming out, which hasn't made the stores yet, had made it to my hands before writing this so I would know if he sounds this bad everywhere. THERE WERE also some factors about the concert which were beyond Bowie's control. For instance, the continuing immaturity of rock fans who don't care if anyone else sees the performance, but rather want to get up front so they can touch the singer. Oh gee that sounds exciting, to be able I to tell my kids that I blocked the view of 5,000 people so I could touch Bowie.   Pot was another problem. There was so much in the air it practically gagged any non-smokers. I feared that I might be arrested going out for possession of grass just from the amount I was carrying involuntarily in my lungs.   The sound men must have left the concert early, because by the time I got there, about 9 p.m., just before Bowie took stage, the sound was bad beyond belief. By 9:45 p.m. people were walking out or milling around at the back of the Expo Center paying no attention at all to the star on stage. I left early because I had already heard David butcher some of my favorite Bowie tunes and from what I'd heard about the numbers he does in concert, I didn't want him to ruin "Space Oddity" or "All The Young Dudes" after hearing him murder "Jean Genie" and "1984." THE ONLY TWO numbers that worked were "Rebel Rebel," which opened the show, and "Diamond Dogs," which stopped, for at least one number the inattentiveness of the audience. Both songs worked only because Bowie sang them strongly, and his lead guitarist drowned out the awful warbling of the singers in the background.   But I am not the least bit deterred in my Bowie loyalty, at least studio album loyalty, be-cause his disc efforts are among the best albums in my collection. Anyone not familiar with Bowie and wants a taste, I would suggest either "Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" or "Alladin Sane." RICK TEVERBAUGH Milwaukee Sentinel 14 October 1974 - Bowie Goes All Out in Grand Style Up close, David Bowie can only be described as having that embalmed look as he begins a show. But as the British heir apparent to rock showman Mick Jagger, Bowie demonstrated to a capacity crowd at the Arena Sunday night that he is very, very much alive. In a modified zoot coat with iridescent slacks, Bowie displayed a stare that could melt titanium, a moody set of postures that that sometimes were remindful of a kung fu position and at other times of a page out of a mail order catalog, and a creative tension that grew as the concert moved on. His face was nearly the color of his flaming hair by show’s end, and at one point, his legs trembled as he belted a number from a stool.   Probably that is because Bowie’s theatrics are more reserved these days, though he still does a considerable amount of leaping about. Thanks to a well oiled, 13 piece back up group, ably directed by pianist Michael Garson, Bowie’s program is as iridescent as his pants. His songs were about time, particularly the future. Bowie sang about 1984, about ray guns and astronauts trapped in tin cans beyond the moon. The material suited Bowie well, for his physical appearance and mannerisms remind one of a kind of marionette who has burst free of his strings. RON LEGRO   Milwaukee Journal 14 October 1974 - Bowie Fans Imitate Their Hero Campy English rock star David Bowie made his Milwaukee debut to a sellout crowd of 12,000 at the Arena Sunday, and all the local glitter-kinder were out and on display – scores of unisex figures in makeup and costume paraded about in frantic imitation of their painted hero. Bowie, having discarded the elaborate Broadway style stage show of the early part of his tour, acted out one more fantasy by fronting a nearly all-black band and chorus in his ‘40s jive white hipster’s zoot suit, hennaed hair and hysterical manner. Milwaukee’s hard core Bowieites, mostly bourgeois boppers in their own idea of daring drag, unwittingly affected a New York style of chic decadence that’s already passé in the East. Their rouged roué of a pied piper must find all the unisex war paint in the provinces rather amusing. Indeed, the sight of a young moll with hair dyed to match her skunk fur outfit or a purse-wearing dandy tapping his umbrella in time to the music was straight out of Zap comic books.   A nonsinger of the Lou Reed school, kewpie doll Bowie worked through soul versions of “Rebel Rebel,” “Changes,” “Diamond Dogs” and the rest unhampered by a distorted sound system – for the focus of the Britisher’s show is on his mincing mimery rather than vocal ability, anyway, Bowie, live, proved to be a terrible musician, but an incredibly good impostor. Pulling out a raunchy harmonica on “Jean Genie,” Bowie began to succumb to hoarseness, and on a slow soul ballad, revealed how lightweight his parody- impersonation of a soul singer really was. Then it was into some well done rockers like “Suffragette City” and “Rock and Roll Suicide,” and the circus was over. This was David Bowie’s first and probably last appearance in Milwaukee, part of a final American tour that will climax Bowie’s rock career and finance a fling at movie stardom. Judging by the desperate way his fans were trying to touch their lipsticked hero by the end of his show, he should make it. STEPHEN WIEST   Detroit Free Press 17 October 1974 – And Now… As the old Michigan Palace began to fill up with people and smoke, it seemed an anachronistically appropriate showcase for the androgynous leader of the glitter rockers. Gilt and splendor and crystal chandeliers, once the accoutrements for the magnificence of theater, were poised to welcome David Bowie, the man who many say has made his greatest contribution not to rock but to its theatrics. Then Bowie pulled a fast one. Forsaking glitter and defiant bisexuality, forsaking Ziggy Stardust and most of his space trip, Bowie gave a ‘70s version of a sow we would have dug, dug, dug back In the '50s, complete with slicked back hair and a great raunchy sax. Led to expect the same old Bowie stuff by backup singers who whooped, "The star machine is coming down — we're gonna have a party,” the rowdy audience seemed a little stunned when Bowie simply walked onstage, wearing a square-shouldered suit and only light makeup. A '70s perversion of an Elvis hero, Bowle spit out his rock 'n' roll lyrics (on numbers like "Rebel, Rebel") with a macho foxiness. If a man with orange hair badly in need of a dye job can possibly strut like a model and be a turn-on at the same time, Bowe will do it. He did, constantly, at the first of his six sold-out concerts this week at the Palace. THOUGH HIS show had none of the amazing props or special effects of his previous performances, Bowie infused each number with enough variety to keep his 4.000 listeners enthralled. Earlier, during the first half of the concert when only Bowle’s backup singers and band were performing, the audience kept up a loud roar of chatter, throwing balloons, smoking dope and occasionally yelling "Bowie" as if they were a herd of cattle waiting to be milked. Once Bowie came on they listened quietly, as if Bowie’s rock ‘n’ roll blitz had stunned them like a cattle prod. The energy that Bowie expends during a concert could light up a suburb, if not an entire city. Onstage for about an hour and 15 minutes, he never stops. Whipping from "Rebel, Rebel" to "Changes" to "1984" to "Diamond Dogs," he manages to stuff an earful of songs—including four new ones—in between and punctuate each with some special bit of dramatics. During "Diamond Dogs." a huge, mean Bowie shadow is projected on a rainbow of a screen. At one point, he crouches and uses the mike like a cycle handle, lookin' bad. Though he moves sexily most of the time, Bowie’s only faint hint at his infamous sexual nature comes during a musical duel with one of his very fine guitar men. This hint is very subdued, and the audience seems almost relieved that Bowie is playing it straight. Bowie's backing, both vocal and instrumental, Is superior—particularly the sax work, which sounds like an odd combination of Junior Walker, Tom Scott and those screechy-reed-tooters of the '50s. CONSTANTLY PRESENT and occasionally detracting from the show were Bowie's bodyguards, husky, karate-trained toughs who were there to prevent the lithe star from being pulled offstage. Bowie was once knocked unconscious at Radio City Music Hall. He has said he thinks a major rock star may be seriously hurt—and that he feels he'll be the one. If the performance at the Palace Is any indication, he's not doing a lot to prevent it. Bowie is a tease. He reaches out and lets people touch him. He drinks wine if it's offered, and Tuesday he kissed an eager girl. If he is ever pulled from the stage, it will be because he offered his hand. The sound for the Bowie show is great on the main floor (where top seats go for an astronomical $12). Some balcony sitters complained they got pure noise since the speakers were aimed straight out from the stage. Nevertheless, as far as the look, the style and the professionalism a performer brings to a show, David Bowie emerges as an enjoyable, whimsical, non-glittering rock 'n' roller. CHRISTINE BROWN Chicago Tribune 23 October 1974 - A theatrical trim shows a better side of Bowie It was “Ch-ch-changes” David Bowie was signing about shortly after he took the stage Tuesday night at Arie Crown, and his have been of the rather heavy and hyped variety. Early on in his career, some of you may recall, he ran around dressed like Lauren Bacall, but that didn’t go over so hot. Then he took on the astral glitter trappings of a character called “Ziggy Stardust,” singing of blasting off for planets unknown, and that went over a little better. Now Bowie has changed again, with his current approach leaning heavily toward a late ‘40s and early ‘50s look accompanied by a soul sextet and a band that calls on rock, soul, and jazz. And of Bowie’s many incarnations, I like the current one best of all, tho some of his most frantic devotees from the “Ziggy” days probably wouldn’t agree. Tuesday night’s show, to be repeated Wednesday night, had a couple of things going for it – primarily the soul sextet of singers and fast-steppers led by Luther Vandross and buoyed up by the energy of a skinny black woman with a blond natural. They opened the show with an entertaining set, then returned again with Bowie. And without them, he wouldn’t have been all that much.   The show’s top ticket cost $10, which is pretty steep, and a price like that leads to expectations that would be pretty hard for any performer to live up to. Bowie tried, and his performance was more enjoyable to me than his past ones have been, even minus the glitter and theatrics he once brought with him. This time, with the expectation of one song on which he played guitar and a few more on which he played harmonica, it was all Bowie the singer – or crooner, since he’s taken to more ballads and a lot of getting down on his knees in bursts of emotion. Bowie’s set, which ran nearly 90 minutes, included some new songs he’s yet to release and some of his older staples – “Changes,” “1984,” “Diamond Dogs,” from his last album, and his “Rock and Roll Suicide.” The “new” Bowie has cut out a lot of the theatrical schlock and come out somewhat the better for it, and his choice of accompanists is a good one. But his appeal still remains somewhat of a puzzle. And judging from his postshow mutterings of the disappointed hordes who’d come expecting some real flash and gotten little, his new style may be a rock and roll suicide move indeed. LYNN VAN  MATRE