Glastonbury 2000


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.


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.)


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.”

34 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:

  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.

  15. crackedemerald says:

    Mr. Bowie, even now, seems to delight in making your books obsolete.

  16. Stormbringer says:

    Can someone here help me place a Let’s Dance version I have that sounds really, really good to me, but doesn’t seem to be the original. I knew the album version was longer, so I just assumed the 7:33 version I have (MP3) was that version. It sounds like a club mix. I just thought David being brilliant put out this ahead of its time club version on the album, and left the Mtv stuff for the single.

    I will email it anyone who wants to hear it. I may host it on my website. It’s very likely a remix done by someone else, but it sounds like a Bowie creation. I can’t find anything like it at its length on YouTube. I don’t think it’s among the Live versions linked here. I always thought it made the album. But I don’t think it is the album version.

    I started looking for versions of Let’s Dance after listening to the Glastonbuy 2000 version on YouTube today. This version has a lot of club thumping sounds, and a the end sequence does classic warped whoop whoop club sounds, sounds brilliant. The intro is very long and drawn out.

    • Stormbringer says:

      Here ( – Let’s Dance.mp3 ) is a link to a personal upload. The file is dated 2004, April 22. I’m not sure if I got Bowie’s discography from a friend, or had it from my Napster days. Often times Napster files were wrong compilations, often attributed to wrong artists…

      To be blunt I much prefer this version to the other Let’s Dance versions I know. I think being a club number works perfectly for its theme. I would like to know more about it.

    • col1234 says:

      i don’t offhand, but i would guess it’s probably not done by DB and it’s likely years, if not decades, after the orig. release—it really doesn’t sound like somethng made in the mid-80s.

      i’d suggest you check out all the various remixes mentioned in the illustrated db guide: and see if one lines up

      • Stormbringer says:

        Thanks! I wonder if anyone here thinks it sounds better than Let’s Dance… I’m always surprised to hear it myself. I didn’t think its style of music went as far back as 1983, but if anyone was going to be appropriating early club sounds for a song called Let’s Dance it’d be none other than DB 🙂

      • Stormbringer says:

        I really expected to hear it after Loving the Alien on the Club Bowie album, but nothing else on that collection sounded good. I tracked down the others listed on YouTube. This one seems to be unique, or lost. Maybe it’s very generic sounding, but I think it’s actually a good remix. Loving the Alien was not so bad either. But doesn’t have the same feel like it could fit on the on the original album. (I really wish David would’ve tried to make the LTA’s lyric audible. It revolves around a complex lyric, that’s completely inaudible.)

        I don’t know what to do with it. I think it’s pretty interesting though.

    • Stormbringer says:

      I put it onto YouTube. Never thought I’d be YT publisher in this lifetime.

      • P P says:

        I let the Shazam app have a listen – it says :
        “Lets Dance (Dance remix)
        Album “Lets Dance” Released 2016

        But if it hears the intro, it think it’s Duran Duran’s The Reflex!

      • P P says:

        It’s rather generic – very much doubt DB had any hand in it.

      • Stormbringer says:

        P P, I’m not a connoisseur of this style of music, but I generally enjoy it when it’s used in films/shows. I listen to DB a lot, and I feel like it passes the sniff test… not saying it is DB. The other remixes are really awful… jarring. I feel like it’s an interesting discovery. I hope others will enjoy it. I have a feeling a lot of people have it already, via the same place I got it.

        I think it does a good job of repurposing all of Let’s Dance’s hooks. I don’t know if it can be done better. It sounds like Let’s Dance. I think being generic works for it, since it takes the dance theme from Let’s Dance and moves it into dance club. If it were possible for David to have introduced Mtv fans to early dance club music by putting a completely different version on the album, I think it might have sounded like this.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have a strong recollection of watching this at home in Scotland. I had only just stopped being a teenager. I wasn’t sure about his look but it was an improvement on the Johnny Rotten Earthling image. I don’t agree with the notion that there was some master plan at work in restricting the broadcast. I am sure DB’s reservations were more mundane – why should a full concert of hits be broadcast nationally without payment? How much control over the broadcast would there be? How many cameras? What if one of these trickier songs is botched? Etc. I also expect sailor boy (I think that was his Internet forum handle?) would have a greater appreciation than other ageing rock stars of how easily video might be bootlegged on on the Internet. There is a bit of hype involved with this release and I wonder if folk such as Mark Cooper have a financial incentive. I would also query the ethics of the bbc now showing an hour of the footage as effectively an extended advert for the full thing. I will get round to pre ordering the new book this week Chris! Can’t wait.

  18. WB says:

    Was glad to see this released but still feel the BBC Theater performance from a couple days later is far superior and Bowie is in stronger voice at certain points.

  19. Christine says:

    Well I am one of those rather embarrassed few who (being of a similar generation to Bowie) knew him as a backdrop throughout life but failed to recognise his brilliance until I caught the full Glastonbury show on the BBC in June 2020. I was gobsmacked and could not understand how I had failed to adequately rate this man. So this set me off on my Bowie adventure, which has allowed lock-down and life during COVID restrictions to pass in a flurry of gathering information from this blog, your books, Chris, and Spotify. I took another look at the show a couple of weeks ago and of course saw it from a completely different place as there is so much of his back catalogue that I now prefer. That said I still love that gorgeous, revised, version of Let’s Dance with the slow build-up and regard this as superior to any other version of that song I have come across including the one at Roseland the previous week. I am so grateful to this blog for your perceptive write-ups, Chris, and the articulate, kind comments of the majority of those contributing to it. My life has been immeasurably enriched by the experience and I will continue to gain joy from David Bowie’s music for the rest of my days.

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