by Mark Marone / Allstar Music Magazine
9th January 1997
A host of modern rock luminaries assembled Thursday night (Jan. 9) at New York’s Madison Square Garden to pay homage to one of their pioneers at the celebration of David Bowie’s 50th birthday. The concert will be available as a pay-per-view on March 8. The evening’s turnstile of performers– featuring old and new artists completmenting Bowie on songs that covered his early career through his forthcoming Earthling album– bridged the gap between the legendary rocker and the amassed crowd of young and old hipsters. Bowie was in top form and showed that he is still the consummate performer.
Opening with his new single “Little Wonder,” Bowie came out dressed stylishly in a long jacket and boots, the first of five outfit changes over the course of the night. But clearly the centerpiece of the evening was the lineup of stars who combined their talents with Bowie. With the set list worked out to host special guests after every two or so songs, the two- hour plus show was well- paced and delightful.
Leading off the succession of perfomers was Frank Black, who came on for the third song of the evening to sing on “Scary Monsters” and a slamming version of “Fashion.” Other guest appearances, in order, included: Foo Fighters, with Dave Grohl flailing away on drums for one song and guitar for another, Robert Smith of The Cure, Sonic Youth, Lou Reed and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan came out during the third encore for rousing renditions of “All the Young Dudes” and “The Jean Genie,” which had the entire Garden singing and dancing in the aisles.
Other highlights included Reed’s mini- set during the first encore, in which three of the four songs he performed were his own; also impressive were Bowie’s version of his 1981 collaboration with Queen, “Under Pressure,” which showcased the considerable talents of bass player/vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey; the momentous “Heroes,” which Bowie sang in a lone spotlight at the edge of the runway that jutted out to the crowd; and the second encore of “Moonage Daydream,” which featured the swirling guitar histronics of former Tin Machine collaborator Reeves Gabrels. Appropriately, Bowie closed the show with a moving, solo version of “Space Oddity.” Unfortunately, the rampant rumors that the likes of Madonna, Courtney Love and Iggy Pop would be surprise guests, were merely rumors.