This concert film of David Bowie & the Spiders during the last public appearance as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust is directed by D.A. Pennebaker who is best known for directing the classic Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back. Oddly the film took a rather long time to surface as it only premiered in 1979 and didn’t see wide distribution until 1983. The film was originally filmed in Pennebaker’s rough cinema verite’ style on 35mm and then remastered in 2003 for its 30th anniversary release on DVD. This remaster didn’t do much for the quality of the picture, it is still grainy, dark and sometimes jerky. This of course really doesn’t diminish its enjoyment, or at least it didn’t for me as it is a landmark performance from Bowie and his Spiders. The band includes the extremely talented guitarist Mick Ronson, who I consider to be criminally overlooked. The costuming and make up is a thing to see as Bowie takes the stage wearing his strange gender bending alien glam, alternating between wearing a kimono from mars and other strange sci-fi hero costumes the whole time sporting his killer space mullet. The concert features songs from Bowie’s albums Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, and the album of the same name.
One of my favorite moments is when Bowie starts miming… I’m not kidding he actually mimes that he is behind an invisible wall up on stage which he eventually is able to break through and bridge the gap between him and the audience. I was fairly surprised that the venue was populated by mostly young women screaming in adoration, I guess I underestimated Bowie’s sex appeal during the early 70s. Early on in the film you get to see the crowd file into the venue which is always fun because Bowie fans really like to get dressed up decked out in all sorts of costumey clothes, makeup and accessories (something I got to witness first hand when I went to see him on his Earthling tour in 1997). Other highlights include a particularly jazzy rendition of “Changes”, and covers of “Love Me Do” (as part of a medley w/ “Jean Genie”), “Lets Spend the Night Together”, and The Velvet Undergrounds “White Light/White Heat”. You will be disappointed if you are expecting any documentary footage as you really only get glimpses of Bowie getting his make up and wardrobe done backstage during breaks. These scenes go by uneventful except for a surprise appearance by Ringo Starr and Bowie’s now infamous first wife Angela. Angela was particularly fun for me to see because I had heard all about their “open relationship” and drugged out escapades together as they are both featured in the Punk book Please Kill Me (see my review here).
Posted originally: 2009-04-23 22:40:11