With the sudden death of musical legend icon David Bowie last Sunday (1/10/16), we’d be fooling ourselves to say there wasn’t enough coverage of the man of many faces. But if there ever was somebody whose praise can’t be overdone, it’s Bowie.
Surprisingly Bowie only went out on 13 tours over the course of his illustrious career. Each one represented a different facet of his musical odyssey, that for many was distinguished by his hair style at the time and whatever other moniker he was enjoying (Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke, etc). So here we go and look back at each of his 13 tours with a video glimpse of the substance and style of that respective era that made Bowie a LEGEND.
The Ziggy Stardust Tour (1972-73)
After three years of being a one hit wonder David Bowie escaped the shadow of “A Space Oddity” through his sci-fi glam persona, Ziggy Stardust. Bowie and his band, the Spiders from Mars, toured the U.S, Europe, and Japan. Originally a folk singer, many attribute the sound of this album to the Spiders’ lead guitarist Mick Ronson. The set list included songs from both “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane”, a reworking of “a lad insane”.
Diamond Dogs (1974)
Influenced by George Orwell’s novel “1984” while taking the glam vision from his previous two records, Bowie prowled the dystopian streets of Hunger City as his new persona Halloween Jack, “a real cool cat”, in the conceptual album Diamond Dogs. The setting of the album was brought to life on stage, with a colossal model constructed with over 20,000 moving parts weighing over 6 tons. The set of Hunger City was finished merely days before touring began with some janky workmanship. During performances it had a propensity to break or malfunction. In one instance a walkway collapsed while Bowie stood on it.
Playing his album Station to Station, Bowie assumed what critics labeled “his last great persona”, the Thin White Duke. During the album’s development, Bowie was enamored with the German new wave bands Neu! and Kraftwerk. Ever the musical chameleon, he adapted elements from these artists into his album and used synthesizers and motorik rhythms. Lyrics were taken from Nitzschean philosophy, Alister Crowley and the occult. During this period Bowie experienced bouts of paranoia stemming from his cocaine addiction.
Isolar II (1978)
While recording the two albums of this tour, Low and Heroes Bowie relocated from LA to Berlin to recover from his addiction. He stayed with Brian Eno whom was heavily featured in both albums. While Low tells the tale of Bowie’s recovery while “Heroes” captured the spirit of the Cold War. The tour started in the San Diego Sports Arena and ended at the Nippon Budokan in Japan.
Serious Moonlight (1983)
Following the release of Let’s Dance Bowie continued on his most successful tour, visiting 15 countries and selling out every venue including one in Auckland, New Zealand with an audience of 80,000. Costumes were flamboyant parodying the new romantics.
Glass Spider Tour (1987)
Joined by longtime friend Peter Frampton, Bowie made a return to theatrical sets that he helped design. Dancers and choreography joined the performance. The album Never Let Me Down focused on the reality and fabrications of rock and roll.
Sound+Vision Tour (1990)
The last two of Bowie’s albums Tonight (’84) and Never Let Me Down (’87) received mix reviews among critics. The Sound+Vision box set was a collection of his greatest hits. Wanting to evolve as an artist, Bowie decided to play these songs in this one last tour, and then retire them to work on new material.
Outside Tour (1995-96)
The tour kicked off with a co-headlining at Meadow’s Music Theater with Nine Inch Nails. Musical sets were supplemented with songs from Bowie’s back catalogue of older work. Critiques claimed his refusal to play his hits was “career suicide”. This album served as his artistic reunion with Brian Eno in another concept album about a dystopian world approaching the 21st century.
Outside Summer Festivals Tour (1996)
Often considered part of the Outside Tour, Bowie preformed a narrowed list of shows in Japan, Russia, Ice Land, and a string of European summer festivals.
Earthling Tour (1997)
During the peak of rave culture, the tour was intended to have two set lists, one normal, and the other more dance oriented with elements of drum and bass. This idea was scratched and the two set lists were merged into one after fans and critics were unreceptive at the first concert.
The Hours…Tour (1999)
Bowie replaced longtime guitarist Reeves Gabriels with Page Hamilton. The album was the first by a major artist available for online download. A stark contrast from its predecessor, the album is mellower resembling Bowie’s older work. This theme is depicted in the album art where a tired short haired Bowie is comforted and cradled by his younger long maned self.
Heathen Tour (2002)
Comprised of his new album Heathen and reprised tracks from Low, the miniature tour resembled the scale of the 1996 Outside Summer Festival. The album Heathen was his greatest success since “Let’s Dance”, signaling his comeback in U.S markets. The album focuses on the degradation of mankind over time.
A Reality Tour (2003-04)
Bowie’s final tour went worldwide in support of his album Reality. The set list was expansive of any prior with songs spanning throughout his career. Most concerts were concluded with “Starman”.