On Saturday, March 8th, the first broadcast of David Bowie's 50th Birthday Special on pay-per-view television will occur. Dauphne wrote this review based on a pre-release copy of the video.
Thanks to a friend at work, I received a review copy of "David Bowie and Friends--A Very Special Birthday Concert." The show, from Bowie's 50th birthday concert in New York's Madison Square Garden, premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET and will be replayed that night at 11:30 p.m. ET, plus, according to a TVKO Entertainment press release, subsequent replays throughout March 15. All profits from the live and pay-per-view concerts will be donated to the Save the Children Foundation, an international relief organization.
The picture quality throughout the show was good. At times, it was purposely amateurish, such as during "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" and "Seven Years in Tibet," giving a polished-bootleg look.
This is not to say that the camera work was by any means unprofessional--we know David Bowie does everything for a reason.
Through cinematography techniques, we feel as though we are actually in the arena watching, with the exception that we have a better view of the stage, no matter where we sit.
Close-ups of Bowie and band members abound. We get to see all of David Bowie's great facial expressions and can inspect, intimately, Reeves Gabrels' fabulous fingers going at his guitar as only he can. Watching Gabrels on "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Scary Monsters" is a treat in itself.
Another bonus of the camera work is that we can better observe Tony Oursler's sculptures, the ones with human faces projected on them, than we probably could have at the live show. Up close, they are much more intriguing and disturbing. They'll probably show up in our dreams for weeks.
For the last stage song, Bowie performs "Space Oddity" alone. The video here is black and white, seen earlier during parts of "Hallo Spaceboy," this time with visible television resolution lines, giving the song a nostalgic feel. Didn't Bowie say he didn't want to still be doing "Space Oddity" at 50? Maybe he meant 60.
We also get to see something extra with our pay-per-view concert--the two dressing room scenes. These are not dressing room scenes as in past video concerts, watching Bowie primp and prepare. These are eerie performances of "I Can't Read" and "Repetition" which include more projections of Bowie's face, this time on his own head, rather than a stuffed one.
The overall sound quality of the show is good. It's mixed well and will sound great if you're lucky enough to watch it from a home theater set-up. The bass and drums are mixed a bit too high, but this is not distracting, and, for all we know, may be on purpose.
While watching the tape with me, a long-time fan said of Bowie, "He knows he's the coolest thing in the world, doesn't he?" He does, and he is.