Glastonbury 2000

glasto_2000_cvr_1080sq

On stage in summer 2000, Bowie broke his Sound + Vision tour pact and flung open the catalog. His first gig at the Roseland in New York, a near three-hour set on 16 June 2000, began with “Wild Is the Wind” and went on through “Life on Mars?” “Golden Years,” “Absolute Beginners,” “Rebel Rebel,” and “Changes,” most of which he’d hadn’t played in a decade. In Britain he sang “Starman” on television for the first time since the Heath ministry (you expected him to appear in Ziggy Stardust makeup by this point). Two days later, he headlined Glastonbury.

He’d last played it in 1971, when it was Glastonbury Fayre, one of the free festivals then cropping up around Britain (its pyramid-shaped stage was built on a ley line). In 2000, Glastonbury was now £87 tickets and 100,000-strong crowds. Wearing a glam bishop’s vestments, his hair at Hunky Dory length, Bowie made the rest of the bill look second-rate. For an encore he did “Ziggy Stardust,” “Heroes,” “Let’s Dance,” and a stonking “I’m Afraid of Americans.” The UK press genuflected: “a masterclass of superstardom” (the Mirror), “an object lesson in How to Be a Rock Star” (the Times), “a level beyond and above anyone else at this festival” (NME). All was forgiven. In the prophecy year 2000, he rode in on the past.

setlist

After a decade of (relative) experimentation, Bowie at last gave his audiences what they wanted, or at least what his critics had said they wanted: the hits, performed with vigor, command, and humor. For much of the Nineties, roughly post-Tin Machine, he’d been an object of mockery and pity, even a source of irritation, for some in the UK press. “For God’s sake, man…play the old stuff and stop trying so hard,” as per an Observer review of a 1997 Bowie “drum ‘n’ bass” set.

“As of 1990, I got through the rest of the 20th century without having to do a big hits show. Yes, yes, I know I did four or five hits on the later shows but I held out pretty well I thought…[but] big, well known songs will litter the field at Glastonbury this year,” as Bowie told Time Out.

The band was developing into what would be his last touring group, with the rhythm section of Gail Ann Dorsey and Sterling Campbell, Earl Slick on guitar, and Mike Garson. Eventually departing were Mark Plati (guitar, bass, keyboards) and a vocal section—Emm Gryner and Holly Palmer. This was the band that, a few weeks afterward in New York, cut much of Bowie’s as-yet-released Toy.

He’d gotten laryngitis during his Roseland shows, having had to cancel one performance, and he was still hoarse at Glastonbury. And he was worried about how he’d be received. “I remember how nervous he was at Glastonbury,” Hanif Kureishi told Dylan Jones. “His voice was failing, he had to do a gig the next day at the BBC, and he was really worried…As soon as it was finished, he rushed offstage, grabbed Duncan, and then got in the car and went straight to bed. He hated it….I’d never seen so many people in my life as I did that night in Glastonbury. It was incredible to me that someone could be so nervous and yet still have the balls to go out there and make it all work.”

It was one of the crowning moments of his performing life. He’d been adamant that the BBC could only show the first songs of the set and an encore song or two, which seemed perverse to the viewers at home—why cut away from the great comeback? But as BBC producer Mark Cooper wrote recently, “I think Bowie knew exactly what he was doing on the night of 25 June 2000. He wasn’t about to give away his peak performance or his catalogue for nothing. He hoarded that night so that one day it could be shown in all its glory as his legacy, the culmination of his golden years and surely his greatest concert since he buried Ziggy Stardust at Hammersmith in July 1973. It’s a time capsule of his life.”

If you’ve never heard the concert before, I’m curious as to what you think of it.

(Over 700 pages more of stuff like this in Ashes to Ashes, coming soon to your favorite bookstore.)

ticket

Setlist above from “Georgi,” a Bowie fan on the now-shuttered (?) Teenage Wildlife website, who paid a hard price for it. “Had great time at Glasto but I’m afraid my fandom had a bad consequence. My two front teeth were knocked almost completely out by being pushed against the bar at the front line. I was at the very front!!! Woohoo! Anyway, ended up getting dragged to the med. centre behind stage and pleaded with the security guards to put me back at the centre front where I’d been since 9am. They eventually agreed and after a fantastic show one gave me the set list.”

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18 Responses to Glastonbury 2000

  1. vonwegen1 says:

    Good to see this blog is still active! Great back story to this release, had no idea about the voice issues.

  2. TisAPity says:

    This latter-day look of his with that Hunky Dory hair is one of my all time favorites, superior to any of his other 1999-2004 looks. As for the set list, it’s alright, i get it, pretentious little me though would be more impressed had he done songs like “Some Are,” “It’s No Game Part 1,” and “Untitled No.1” though, rather than stuff like “Beginners,” and “Wonder.”

  3. Eamonn says:

    “…few weeks afterward in New York, cut much of Bowie’s as-yet-released Toy”

    Unreleased surely (sadly)?

    • col1234 says:

      making a guess that it will come out in a box set in 2020 or whenever. would make sense; majority of the tracks have come out on B-sides and compilations over the years.

      • spanghew says:

        Yes, I am thinking that ‘Toy’ will make an appearance on the box set covering the period… While I’ve heard from a very well-connected source that there will be a Tin Machine box (not sure whether independent, or part of a Bowie box), it still seems unlikely that reissue series would get to ‘Toy’ till Fall of 2020.

        But I certainly hope it’s finally released then!

  4. MC says:

    I was fortunate enough to hear this set in its entirety for the first time when BBC Radio posted it on their website in the weeks after DB passed away. It did not disappoint – DB giving the punters what they wanted with self-evident relish, and no hint of the vocal problems cited in your piece. The only remotely duff track is Fame, in the ponderous arrangement that would blight all of the later performances of the song. My highlight would be the rendition I got to know best, having recorded it onto VHS from Musiqueplus many moons ago – Ziggy Stardust. God, it was exciting to hear that again, with DB tearing into the song with renewed conviction, and the band as tight as the proverbial drum. (And the hair looked fuckin’ great as well.)

  5. iain says:

    Pre-ordered “Ashes To Ashes” and want to hibernate until February…

  6. stue1967 says:

    I was fortunate to be at Glastonbury. He had me immediately when he drifted on to Wild is the Wind. What a way to make an entrance.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the DVD as much of the evening passed in a blissful haze.

  7. postpunkmonk says:

    I’m enjoying all of the Bowie live sets carefully drifting out posthumously and look forward to eventually buying this. It’s Maximum Strength Bowie® for certain, but I still cherish the more adventurous 36 song set at the Chili Pepper even more since I was there with 999 other fans.

  8. P P says:

    I watched the select clips that went out originally on the BBC in 2000 – and also the more recent fuller (but not complete) set list that the BBC broadcast a few weeks ago or so. While DB was growing older very stylishly (I was also going to say healthy until he lit up a cig for a song or two later in the set) – I hate to say it, I have to dissent from others. His voice was adequate but restrained (as per the hoarseness mentioned) and although the band were mostly familiar and usually deliver , for me , something was missing from the performance. He’s had some great live recordings and some indifferent ones – this was a bit meh for me . My slightly older brother, who was into DB well before I was, also commented on his voice and wasn’t impressed . While DB was relaxed and happy and its hard to pin down what made the occasion memorable in retrospect but not in experience, at least watching on my screen, it felt a bit subdued. I just dont feel I’d particularly want to watch it again. Sorry.

  9. Cat Gareth says:

    Hi, Chris. I was – I swear – reading your blog post on Glastonbury when the email announcing your new post on Glastonbury arrived in my inbox. I’ve also been bouncing between your Rebel Rebel take on Bowie’s 70’s and Peter Doggett’s version in The Man Who Sold The World. There has also been a sprinkling from The Bowie Years magazines (despite their desperate need of proof reading). I’ve become intrigued by the authority with which various writers declare completely different conclusions about Bowie’s songs. Alright, I find myself thinking, tell me something I haven’t read before and convince me. But… just because I read don’t mean I don’t think as well. To myself I declare, “Ian Fish, U.K. Heir is the sound of a song slowly emerging from the unconscious on an ordinary day” and “Well, obviously, the whining voices insisting “I’m a Blackstar” after his spirit stepped aside, clearly indicate that Blackstar refers to every British rocker’s fervent wish to be a Black (American) star.” Bowie left all these holes for us to fill with our own pretensions 🙂 Anyway, looking forward to the whole of Glastonbury and yet more reading when AshesTo Ashes comes out. CG
    PS – It’s obvious now that my previous comment that I thought was my first, last and only was only my first 🙂

  10. rodimusprime says:

    I tried to get to the very front but ended up with precisely two bodies between me and the bar. Already watched the hour long version of the set and failed to spot my crushed, sweaty self. The only song I can remember very clearly is I’m Afraid of Americans, which was indeed stonking. Watching back now it would have been good to see more of the Earthling material, which the band were clearly very much enjoying playing. But Glastonbury headline gigs have to be greatest hits set, and this was one of the best.

  11. Coagulopath says:

    You know the varispeed-assisted ending to “Fame”? And how David would try to sing it live, sometimes with mixed results?

    At Glastonbury, he got down to E2, which isn’t bad with a ruined throat. That said, the definitive “Fame” ending is probably this 2003 one. He was 57 years old, and managed to hit a strong D2!

    • Nathan Adler says:

      Well, actually, age and sore throats affects the high register and, at the same time, makes easier to hit low notes. Try going out to a noisy club where you have to speak almost screaming. The morning after you’ll find yourself with a Leonard Cohen voice type. Of course, your voice will sound with some “fry”.

  12. Stang says:

    Excellent post as always Chris…I do hope you keep these posts up with every new Bowie release/relevant bit of Bowie news.
    I quite like what I’ve heard of the 2000 Glastonbury show, Bowie does looks great in MWSTW/Hunky Dory revival mode…tho the bands he assembled post 1983 were never as inspired to my ears. Tho at the very least is nice to have new releases to discuss here!
    On that note: Just found out I’m getting ‘Rebel Rebel’ this year as a Xmas present & ‘Ashes to Ashes’ for my birthday in 2019…mainly because I keep banging on to anyone who will listen about just how good this blog is…so im looking forward to the holidays a little more this year!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have been listening to Glastonbury 2000 on Spotify ahead of getting the DVD. Given this show was Bowie’s biggest of 2000, it would be interesting to know what other songs were on the shortlist to make it to the set.

    Gail Ann Dorsey interview about new Glastonbury 2000 set here:
    http://www.ilikeyouroldstuff.com/news/interview-david-bowie-bassist-gail-ann-dorsey

  14. On your recommendation I watched the one-hour BBC release. Though I can’t vouch for the stuff held back, at least from the shows of the period, I much prefer the Berlin and Isle of Wight shows from 2002/2004 — but I get your point. As always, you analysis and explication is fascinating and am very much looking forward to the new book.

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