"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Rolling Stone JUNE 15, 1978 - by John Milward
DAVID BOWIE: MAN OF MANY PHASES
David Bowie, Arie Crown Theater, Chicago, April 17 and 18, 1978
David Bowie's career has been predicated on abrupt stylistic changes, and the most surprising aspect of his new live show is the ease with which he melds the disparate strands into a tightly woven whole. During the two-hour show, Bowie places equal emphasis on the adventuresome new music he's made with Brian Eno and the souped-up and blown-dry hard rock that made him a star with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.
"Heroes", the title cut from his latest album, best exemplifies the conflicts of Bowie's new music, as well as the curiousness of its live juxtaposition with Ziggy. With boastfully romantic lyrics set to an inexorably droning goose-step heat, "Heroes" sets up a conflict of humanity versus technology. That theme is played out when Bowie takes the stage as Ziggy Stardust to begin the second portion of the show. The original Ziggy was the archetypal rock poseur, the bigger-than-life cliche of the artist who is killed by a demanding audience. The new Ziggy is a dramatic crooner - Bowie turns everything into a prop, from his Gitanes to his mike-over-the-shoulder delivery of Suffragette City - with a different story. This time, with "Heroes" still droning in our heads, it seems as if Ziggy is saying that he's not the only one who gels killed in the end; the audience is also a victim.
Both of Bowie's Chicago shows were technically polished jewels. He is working with his best road band ever. Goofball guitarist Adrian Belew constantly grinds away at wonderfully distorted, string-wrenching runs that are put into an effectively layered context by Roger Powell's subtle, yet bombastic, synthesizer playing. The highlight of the shows came on the second night, when the orchestra pit had been removed and there was little distance between Bowie and the audience. Marching in time with the manic "I want to touch you" phrase that concludes Breaking Glass, Bowie leaped from the stage, touched somebody in the first row, and was back onstage before most of the audience knew what had happened. The time lapse was just a second, but if you caught Bowie's face, you saw his features screaming with insecurity. Then, during a stunning interpretation of Alabama Moon (Whiskey Bar), Bowie's face again became the focal point, changing with each verse and making Bowie appear to be a man of a thousand visages. That we can't tell which face is real is what makes Bowie's show so intriguing.