Wednesday 26 December 2018

On DVD ( and CD) - Rod Bishop on "the best concert I’ve seen this century" - BOWIE GLASTONBURY 2000 - A magical box set that shows Bowie at his peak

Bowie Glastonbury 2000 (2xCD 1xDVD) 
BBC and Warner Music Group. Released 30 November 2018

Included in this box set is an atmospheric account from Caitlin Moran of David Bowie’s performance at Glastonbury on 25 June 2000. An excerpt:
For those first two numbers, the throat was coddled…It was – merely – a great performer, singing his greatest hits, carefully. And then…and then, it happened. The thing you go to gigs for, the thing you keep believing in, although you may not have seen it for months, years. Like a pivotal moment in a rom-com – where everything catches fire…and there it went: the unmistakable electric wave from the stage to the back of the field, that occurs when a moment begins to happen…simply, obviously, wonderfully, he is there to win, now. He piles on all his treasures – miles high – until others will be embarrassed to play this stage again…hearing this performance, you will let out a ragged sigh over the impossibility of someone so alive, so vital, just…ending. How could the universe conspire to make him disappear? On this night he seemed like an infinite material. The most unstoppable substance yet invented.”
Opinions will vary of course, but to this viewer, the DVD in this package amply shows everything Caitlin Moran writes to be true. 
I was never a big Bowie fan and although he was eighteen months older than I, his most fervent fans seemed at least 10 years younger. I liked some of the songs, I liked him in The Man Who Fell To Earth, I liked the androgyny and in 1983 I even braved the crowded dunnies at Waverley Park in Melbourne’s east where fans were brazenly shooting up before Bowie’s Serious Moonlight performance. What he delivered that night was second-rate compared with this consummate set from 2000.
So, where has this Glastonbury gig been? Why has it taken 18 years and Bowie’s death before it has surfaced? For starters, Bowie never wanted it filmed and that’s as big a first problem as you can get. 
In a piece for The Guardian newspaper “David Bowie: The day I pulled the plug on his Glastonbury comeback”, BBC producer Mark Cooper tells of the eventual compromise: the BBC could go live with the first four songs of the set and one or two from the encore. After the first two songs, Wild Is The Wind and China Girl, and probably about the time Caitlin Moran describes “the unmistakable electric wave from the stage to the back of the field”, Cooper tried to reopen discussions at the side of the stage and only managed to wrest the fifth song for the initial broadcast.
After that, he had to wait 90 minutes for the encores. With no other stage operating, Cooper was forced to cut from the BBC live broadcast to “a short film explaining the world of underground theatre at Glastonbury” to help fill his gap. He goes on to discuss his numerous attempts after Glastonbury to have the full concert released, only to be met with “…mutterings about the audio quality, some aspects of the performance…”
The Glastonbury 'pyramid' stage
As a filmed concert, it’s typical BBC: unobtrusive coverage with limited audience cutaways and making the most of a sound-and-light show clearly not designed for television. It matters not. Bowie and his crack band transcend everything, including the singer’s laryngitis to deliver the best concert I’ve seen this century. It’s magnificent.
A note on the box set: I strongly recommend the set containing the DVD of the complete two-hour concert. I found mine at JB HiFi for $38, but it wasn’t easy. Now, it no longer appears on their website. Instead, a 2CD with no DVD is available. Amazon AU seem to be offering the set containing the DVD for $AU38. Amazon UK and USA offer the package that includes the DVD at $AU60 plus freight and $AU34 plus freight, respectively. You also might be able to find it if you click here at a bargain price of $AU32.

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