The Olympia, Dublin - August 8

by Dara O'Kearney
Email: daraok@iol.ie

THE BEFORE BIT

We got there early enough to get near to the front once the doors open. As we were queueing, we saw Zack in the alley beside the stage door, casually chatting to some fans.

Drum and bass sounds filtered over the PA as the stage was set up. At 9.20 PM, Changes was played, and got a rousing cheer. Bowie then strolled on to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and launched into "Quicksand". The band joined him later for the chorus. The crowd by now were almost in a frenzy - we had definite lift-off.

THE CONCERT BIT

After Quicksand came "The Man Who Sold The World", reworked as per the Outside tour. This was followed by "Queen Bitch" and "Waiting For The Man". Iman arrived in one of the boxes and started chair-dancing (Duncan was also in evidence in the neighbouring box, dancing with considerable enthusiasm). My wife Mireille was the first to spot Iman's arrival, so we all gave her a wave which she returned with a broad smile, and she also took our photos from her lofty perch. My son Paddy subsequently reported that Iman was looking down at him a lot throughout the evening (he was, I think, the only kid in the audience, and she was probably wondering about the type of parents who bring their kid to a Bowie concert), which he very much enjoyed, although it turned out he hadn't a clue who she was (other than "some pretty good-looking black woman").

Meanwhile, Bowie entertained the crowd by whipping up some proletariat distaste for the boxes (He looked up at the boxes and said "Did you lot pay more for your boxes? Probably not. Boo. Down with the boxes"). He also told us about his sight-seeing around Dublin (he, Iman and Tracey went up to Trinity College and had a look at the Book Of Kells), quipping that he had never realised the Blues had been invented around the corner from Trinity, which he said he was "flabbergasted" to learn. He said he was also surprised to learn that the Blues were invented just around the corner from UCD (the other big university in Dublin), but "that's another story".

He went on to claim that he was born in the Mississippi Delta, where they didn't get the Blues until 1948, the year after he was born. All this was by way of an intro to an old blues song which mutated into "The Jean Genie".

Next came "I'm Afraid Of Americans", which was accompanied by the usual video visuals (ominous looking American flag, saccharine images of Hollywood musicals and picket fences melding into the Enola Gay and other military images). By now, it was clear (as many of the press reviews later dwelt on) that Bowie was in total control and as relaxed as I've ever seen him - chatting and interacting with the crowd, dancing and miming on stage, improvising lyrics and clearly having the time of his life. His mime talents were particularly noticeable during this song. After he sang the line "Johnny's wants to think of a joke", he stood at the microphone with a Johnny-trying-to-think-of-a-joke-but-not-succeeding expression on his face that caused my brother to burst out laughing. Imagine Bowie doing Butthead trying to think of a joke, and you've got it.

"Battle For Britain" was next, a great live song. Next came "Fashion", with the controversial porn video accompaniment. These go well with the general thrusting rhythm of the song, Reeves high-powered guitar and the lyrics ("It's loud and it's tasteless/Full of tension and fear"). It's all very quick cut, so those who are worried about being offended by them can console themselves with the fact that they would have to concentrate and stare very hard at the video screens if they want to be offended. And it's not as if they're aren't other things you could be looking at (like Bowie for instance). My son Paddy never noticed them ("Porn. What porn? When? Where?").

"Seven Years In Tibet", which Bowie announced as the new single "coming out next week" (only a week out, Dave) was, according to my brother, the best of the Earthling material live (and in his book pipped only as best live song overall by Hallo Spaceboy).

Bowie then did his "Shout yer names" routine and joked with the crowd by suggesting that all the guys were probably called Sean.

"Fame" was spacey and memorable - I much prefer this reworked version to the original. Gail Ann took lead vocals on "Outside", which was followed by a top version of "Stay", with Bowie adding some notable lyrical improvements to the original (The refrain "Stay why don't you" is now repeated rapid-fire to stirring anthemic effect in the chorus).

"Looking For Satellites" was followed by a duet with Gail Ann on "Under Pressure" (many people think this should be dropped, but it was noticeable that a large section of the crowd greeted it with a loud cheer. Clearly, for the non-hardcore fans, this is still one of the crowd-pleasers).

During "Heart's Filthy Lesson", we hoisted Paddy up in a thinly-veiled attempt to get Bowie to notice him (preferably as he sang "Paddy, who's been wearing Miranda's clothes"). Bowie did actually look in his direction, but Paddy blew it - he was too busy staring off to the side and up at Iman.

"Hallo Spaceboy" was as utterly sensational live as ever, with pogoing much in evidence. The up-tempo stuff continued with "Scary Monsters" which built to a crescendo finale "Oh oh oh oh oh".

Then we got "Little Wonder", which seems to be a favourite with the newer fans. Bowie then said how wonderful it was to be back in Dublin, and they went off. The crowd screamed for an encore, probably more in hope than expectation (there was no encore at the Point in '95, probably the only Bowie concert most of the audience had previously attended), but on this night, Bowie was coming back. Not only that, but the length of the encore took everyone by surprise, including (it seemed) Iman, who disappeared after Little Wonder and didn't re-appear until near the end of the encore.

"The Last Thing You Should Do" kicked off and signalled Bowie's intent - this would be no "wallow in the oldies" encore. "Dead Man Walking" continued that theme, done 'straight' (as per the Earthling album, unlike the following night). Next up was "Telling Lies", a beautiful poignant version, and then "White Light White Heat" proved why Bowie and his band are different class from 'The Original Spiders' who had played it here the night before.

"O Superman" was as beautiful as ever, with the crowd throwing on paper planes as they sang "Here come the planes". Bowie dealt with these with typical aplomb - fluttering the wings of one to make it look (and briefly fly) like a bird.

"V2 Schneider" is a magnificent techno stomp, and then a surprise - a rousing version of "Look Back In Anger". "All The Young Dudes" provided a suitably anthemic finale.

Finally, some trivia that I can't place when it happened, but at one stage Bowie said the lines "Ha ha he Hee hee hee" from "The Laughing Gnome", and then feigned "What are you talking about?" ignorance when the crowd continued the gnome chorus. Later, someone threw a small plastic gnome or leprechaun onto the stage, which Bowie played with for a bit before sticking it in his trousers. During "Little Wonder", he threw it back into the crowd.

This was the best concert I've ever seen - I really can't speak highly enough of it. I thought the Outside tour was great, but on current form, the Earthling tour is another level of excellence. If this does turn out to be Bowie's farewell tour as some are suggesting, then I can think of no better way to bow out.

THE AFTER BIT

There was a noticeable buzz in the air afterwards, with everyone on a high. A crowd gathered to watch Bowie and the band depart. My brother met some college friends, and the main topics of conversation seemed to be how brilliant it was in general, and how good the Earthling stuff sounded live in comparison to the older material.

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This document last updated Tuesday, 15-Sep-1998 21:30:48 EDT
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