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Diary of a Married Groupie

David Bowie Earthling Tour September, 1997

1997_earthling_cvr_fix_800sq

April 27, 2011 – I dug deep this weekend, down into the archives (i.e., an old file cabinet in the corner of our garage) and found my journal on David Bowie’s Earthling Tour at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle, circa 1997.  I added a few things in brackets, and scanned the old article from The Seattle Times, as well as my tickets and a link to Bowie’s tours at the bottom of the blog.

September 8, 1997

I am a lucky person.  I was one of 3,000 people lucky enough to purchase tickets to the David Bowie concert held in The Paramount Theatre on Sunday [1997].  A few weeks ago I heard an announcement on my favorite radio station, The Mountain, that a big star was coming to play at a small venue.  I listened later that day to find out David Bowie was that star.  I wanted to see him back in 1983 when he played the Tacoma Dome on his “Let’s Dance” tour.  Nobody I knew liked him, so I didn’t go.  When I got to college, my roommate said she had gone to see him, so we were instant friends.  We listened to “Let’s Dance” while standing on our dorm chairs with the door open so everyone could view our silliness!  But I digress…

When the tickets went on sale, I decided not to make the same mistake I made for the Rolling Stones concert (I went to the record store to buy the tickets, and so did 200 other people!), so I went to Payless in Totem Lake.  There were only 4 people in line when I arrived.  We only had to wait about 15 minutes, then the rush began.  Buying tickets [in the old days, before purchasing online] is a stressful activity.  There is such a limited window of time that the tickets are actually available, since the whole state of Washington sells them at the Ticketmaster outlets at the same time.  Three thousand tickets can sell out in minutes.  If a person doesn’t have exact change or hems and haws about their choices, they will be accosted by the people behind them with words like, “Hurry, damn it, before they sell out!”  The choice was either main floor, which was standing room only (The Paramount has fold-into-the-floor chairs for concert events) or two balconies high above the floor.  In a short amount of time I had to decide whether to be comfortable but far away in balcony seating, or be uncomfortable and possibly crushed by getting the main floor tickets.  I quickly made up my mind when I heard the fourth person in line had to settle for Row M on the second balcony.  I looked at the few people in line and made the generalization the crowd would be older and more mature than the moshing crowds at most rock shows, so I might be safe after all.

I asked my co-worker M if she would like to go with me.  Of course, she said yes, because she too is a Bowie fan.  When I told her that I had to buy floor tickets, she had no problem with that.  Good, I thought, I just hope I don’t have a problem with it!  I’m feeling much more mortal now that I have a son.  I don’t feel like being irresponsible and wild anymore.

The night of the concert came.  I was supposed to meet M at her apartment at 5:00.  She was going to cook dinner for me, and then we would leave at 6:00 sharp.  I wanted to get there somewhat early so we could get close to the stage.  I arrived at her apartment with 10 minutes to spare.  She wasn’t close to being ready; she hadn’t even taken a shower yet!  I expected the food to be prepared also.  I didn’t say anything, though, because I knew at this point there was nothing I could do about it.  She made dinner and we talked and talked.  It was actually quite fun and relaxing to just shoot the breeze.  She cooked a great stir-fry.  We ate till we were stuffed.  She still had to take a shower, so I played with her cats.  She was ready in about 20 minutes.

We left her house just after 7:00.  I drove.  Luckily, M knew her way around a little better than I, so we got there in just a few minutes.  We found a place to park (I was amazed; I thought we’d be driving around the block for hours!), right across the street from The Paramount.  When we walked up to the theatre, we saw a large line to the right, but people were also going right in at the front doors.  We decided to just walk right in.  After a search by a female security guard, we were in!  We hit the restrooms and noticed the beautiful tile work and marble all around. It had recently been restored.  I don’t know how old the building is, but it is so ornate [I looked up on their website: 1928].

Once inside, we noticed there were hardly any people crowding the stage, so we joined them gleefully.  I thought we’d be too late, but there were only about 100 people milling around.  I really got excited when I saw how close we were going to be to the stage!  We were only about 15 feet away, just to the left of center stage.  It was only about 7:30 by this time, and we had plenty of time to take in the crowd, the details in the structure, and the stage.

The inside of The Paramount is a glimpse into the past.  I wondered how many people had seen the inside, with its golden walls of intricate details of flowers, designs and patterns.  It’s almost gaudy, yet so beautiful.  It has stunning crystal chandeliers around the sides.  The dome looks like something from a Roman cathedral.  There is an oval in the middle with designs in it.  Circling it are lights that illuminate the whole dome.  It is quite a spectacle.

We weren’t sure what to expect when we saw the stage.  There were three gigantic eyeballs, about 4 feet in diameter, filled with air.  I immediately guessed they would be thrown out into the audience and used as beach eyeballs!  In the background were three large alien-shaped heads without faces which later had images of faces projected on them.  There was a huge sheet draped loosely at the back of the stage used for projecting various videos and images in psychedelic colors.

There was a DJ [DJ Kamikaze] onstage playing some techno-funk style mixes.  The music was very loud.  It started to grate on our nerves after a while, especially when 8:00 rolled around, and the show had not begun.  We waited and waited…the crowd was getting thicker.  We watched as people above in the balcony looked over the edge to find friends down below.  We noticed that we were able to keep our places, without any rude people crowding us out, so far.  By this time, our lower backs and legs were already aching from standing so long in one place.  We kept waiting and listening for a sign of Bowie.  Then I started wondering if he was going to have an opening act.  I thought I would die if I had to stand through another hour before he got on.

Eight forty-five rolled around and still no Bowie.  We then thought that maybe this annoying music was the opening act (as it turned out, it was).  Finally, when our backs could take it no more, the stage grew dark.  The crowd started cheering loudly.  I couldn’t see Bowie come onto the stage because of the tall people in front of me, but I could tell by the crescendo of the noise that he was approaching his microphone.  We whooped and screamed!

I had never been so close to the stage before for such a big-named star!  Wow, we were close!  I had a perfect view of him from the waist up, once he reached the mic.  He immediately smiled and talked to the crowd a little before he began the set.  He threw his acoustical guitar around his neck and said how excited he was to be starting his American tour at The Paramount (we were his first stop in the US!  He did one show in Vancouver, BC a few nights before), and began his show.

He started with an “unplugged” song.  It sounded great.  He looked great, yet I noticed (as did M) that he was starting to show his age a little.  He had just turned 50 this year.  His hair was gelled and spiky, but in a more classy style than in the past.  He had a little goatee also.  He just couldn’t stop smiling [nor could I, as M pointed out after the show!].  He looked like he was really enjoying himself.  His shirt was dark brown with little blue dots all over it.  It was unbuttoned to reveal the top of his chest, adorned with a gold cross.  The sleeves were long but had large, flowing cuffs that looked like lilies hanging from his arms.  The bottom of his shirt had the same blue, only in a thick band that hung loosely down to his hips.  Occasionally his belly button (an innie) could be seen where the shirt wasn’t buttoned at the bottom.  His pants were a shimmering, silver-gray satin.  I only got a glimpse of these when he jumped up on his speaker in front of his mic to dance around a little.  We were so close I could see both of his eye colors.  As he performed, I could see the perspiration under his arms and between his shoulder blades.  We were that close!

The rest of the band was also very interesting.  It consisted of a lead guitar, Reeves Gabrels, who looked like a fifty-year-old himself, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and keyboardist Mike Garson, all with shaven heads.  The drummer, Zachary Alford was in dreadlocks.  I don’t thinK they could have made him conform!  He was the same drummer for the B-52’s.

We were hoping for more of Bowie’s old music, from the Ziggy Stardust era; but after 30 years of the same thing, I guess he’s probably sick of it.  He did play about 7 songs that I recognized, but the rest were from his new album, Earthling. The music was powerful, clean, and professional.  It ROCKED!  There was only one song about Mother or something that was a bit of a downer.  Most of the songs were fast and hard.  There was an article/concert review in The Seattle Times [see article below] on Monday which listed some of his songs:

The Man Who Sold the World

Jean Genie (one of my favorites, which he did with a bluesy twist in the beginning

Baby What You Want Me to Do

Panic in Detroit

Fashion

Look Back in Anger

Under Pressure (another favorite, originally done with Queen’s Freddie Mercury–the bass player, Gail did an incredible job singing)

Scary Monsters (played in a Johnny Cash style on The Mountain radio station Monday)

Fame

White Light/White Heat

All the Young Dudes (concluding song…awesome!)

From the Earthling album came:

Seven Years in Tibet

Looking for Satellites

I’m Afraid of Americans

Little Wonder

From the album Outside, he played “Hearts Filthy Lesson.”

Throughout the songs, Bowie danced, waved to us, smiled, sang with all of his energy, toyed with the band members, even rubbed his hand over the bassist’s bald head, strutted, pointed at the crowd, etc.  He was extremely entertaining.  At one point, near the beginning of the show, he responded to a guy who had yelled, “How’s Iman?” Bowie’s wife is the exotic African model.  He responded, “Oh, the wife’s fine, fine…and yours?  How’re the kids?”  Everyone laughed, including Bowie.  He also belted out some great sax music with an alto and baritone sax as accompaniments to a few songs.

Near the end, he and the band left the stage to ready themselves for the encore (we knew he would be back; the house lights didn’t come on).  As the crowd cheered him back, he sashayed up to the stage, cigarette in hand and said, “Oh, sorry, we just had to step out for a cigarette!”  They played another four or five songs before finally saying goodbye.  It was so exciting to see such a big star and influence on rock/pop/punk music in such a small venue as The Paramount. [I also distinctly remember two teenage boys and a very tiny teenage girl next to us who were completely awestruck, even more so than we were.  They couldn’t believe how close they were.  The girl climbed on the shoulders of one of the boys to see over the tall crowd.  The smile on her face was priceless.]

Monday morning, back to work.  M and I stole our manager’s portable radio and listened to The Mountain’s live broadcast of Bowie in their “Mountain Music Lounge.”  Of course, he was a half hour late!  I missed part of the interview because the phone kept ringing, but then they repeated the show the next night.  He was very funny.

A handful of listeners got to have their questions read aloud by the DJ and answered by Bowie.  One listener got a little too “deep.”  She asked about his various “masks” he wears for society, and if these are part of his persona or a way to hide his inner self from the public, or something to that effect.  He laughed as the question was being read, and said, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding!”  Then he answered in a very cockney accent, “Well, the only mask oy wear is when oy go out on Sunday mornings to get me Sunday paper and some cigarettes.  Yes, it’s a mask of Michael Jackson.  People look at me funny when I wear that, what with Michael’s head and my white hands.  You see, oy have to wear it because oy don’t have my usual entourage about me!”  Everyone was cracking up!

Someone else asked him about his various movie roles, and which one he prepared for the most.  He said he read everything he could about The Elephant Man when he was offered the role.  He said he even looked at the remains, but didn’t offer to buy them as Michael Jackson did (laughter).  He played the part of Andy Warhol in Basquiat recently.  He did an excellent job, except he said it was an “English” Andy; he didn’t have the American accent down very well, but the body movements were right on.  I thought he did a superb job in The Man Who Fell To Earth, and more recently, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.  Great movies.

Reeves, his guitarist, was also funny.  Bowie mentioned that when they were on the little underground train at the airport, Reeves set his hat on the floor and played some tunes.  Someone gave him seventy-five cents.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t doubt it would happen in this town!

Bowie also mentioned that on his first stop in Vancouver, he knew he was in for a long tour when he met the limo driver.  Bowie had whispered to Reeves while walking toward the car, “Hey, I bet that guy in the Mormon suit is our driver!”  It was indeed, and Bowie then mimicked the driver in a funny Canadian accent: “Hi, uh, my name’s Steve.  I’m yer driver tonight.  I didn’t know you were a big rock star, eh.  I grew up with yer music.”  In which Bowie replied, “Oh yeah?  Then who am I?’  And the driver said, ‘Uh, the car is over here…’ And so began our tour,” laughed Bowie.

Here’s the scanned Seattle Times article by Patrick MacDonald:

Bowie

1997 Tour Dates/Venues:

http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/tours/tour97.htm

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April 27, 2011 - Posted by | 1997, David Bowie, Music, The Paramount Theatre | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on Aplscruf's Music Blog and commented:

    In Remembrance of David Bowie…one of my first concert journals. 1997, Paramount Theatre. Fantastic.

    Comment by aplscruf | January 11, 2016 | Reply

  2. Great post, L. I loved the dancing in your dorm and your description of the Paramount, reminds me of other concerts there (like Laurie Anderson), and the story about the limo driver. . . classic. 🙂

    Comment by Fannie Cranium | January 11, 2016 | Reply

    • “Let’s Dance” was huge when we were in college! And that radio interview–I think he was talking with either Marty Riemer or Mike West. Just hilarious!

      Comment by aplscruf | January 11, 2016 | Reply


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