I have a confession to make. I have an old memory, one that I would almost think I’d created — in the way your mind does, over time — if it hadn’t been recently (and spontaneously) confirmed by a friend I’d confided to at the time.
Quite a few years ago now, I went to a Bowie show. And I was bored.
I didn’t start off bored. In fact, I went, solo, with no expectation whatsoever. It was 1997, I was still recovering from Outside and not sure whether or not I was still fully in the Bowie camp. It was the Earthling tour, and I didn’t have the record yet — in fact, I wouldn’t come to love the album until much later. To this day, it’s one of my favourite Bowie releases. But not then, not yet.
I remember standing, very close to the stage in the tiny, open-air venue with young men nearby who were predicting what wild things they would see when Bowie came out. It was my third Bowie show by then — ’87 and ’90 were before that — and I considered myself a veteran of these performances. Oh, yeah, Bowie. I like Bowie. Sure. He’s alright. In my mind, I was just killing a Monday evening until I had to go home, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning and go back to the soul-destroying job I had at the time.
And then, he came out. And it was awesome. I nearly died. Because I remembered. I remembered that it was Bowie. It was not **shrug** Bowie. It was BOWIE. I went, in almost an instant, from indifference to euphoria.
And he saw. Because I looked up — or down — or away from wherever my starry-eyed gaze had strayed — to see him (HIM) looking at me, that huge, unmistakable smile on his face, and he waved, a slow wave: “…Helllloooo…. I see you, in your ecstasy, there…”
It was pretty awesome.
And then the show went on. And I remembered my life, at the time. My mind strayed, I got tired, hungry, and gazed at the sunset, wondering what time it was, when this lengthy exposition of unusual, unfamiliar music was going to end. The magic — when put up against my own depression — was short-lived, and no match. A band-aid.
And I turned back, from the sunset or the sky or whatever random thing I was looking at, to place my gaze on the stage and there he was, again — and he looked away, quickly, as if he’d been watching me, and knew from my less-than-enthusiastic reaction, that it wasn’t going well.
There are these reports that Bowie’s been offered a lot of money to do a show, or a series of shows, in London next year. He won’t for whatever reason. Stage fright, some reports say or maybe — he just doesn’t want to do it. After all, it is work. I’m not a performer, but I understand this.
The idea of being able to see Bowie live again makes me beyond excited. I trucked across the Atlantic a few short weeks ago to see the V&A exhibit, and to go back to see the man himself, might strain the pocketbook, but man would it be awesome.
So, David, this is my “Dear David.” I will say “we,” because I will speak for myself and whoever feels exactly like I do. And because I just don’t feel like using the “I” form here, in this section.
We will welcome you if you choose to come back. We will love the show regardless of what you look like, sound like, and what you choose to play.
You owe us nothing. We are looking for the ideal, and here is what that is: the ideal is whatever you feel you want to do, at this point in time. You don’t have to create what you think we might want to see. You alone are enough.
For many of us, you saved our lives when we were young. You’re a human being we’ll never know, but as an artist feel connected to. If you want to let the art stand on its own and step back, that is your choice; we’re grown ups. We’re not looking for nostalgia, and you don’t have to provide it.
I, for one, promise, that this time, I won’t be bored. And I won’t be gazing at the sky when I could be looking at you.