ashes to ashes, funk to funky

It strikes me from time to time when I watch live performances, or when I’m at concerts, how natural some musicians are. They make playing those instruments seem soooo easy – just like a very well synchronized game.
Bowie‘s show in Paris, at Olympia in 2002 is one of those cases. The band seems to be so relaxed and in-sync, and so does David.
Just watch and see (it’s probably why this is my favourite version of Ashes to Ashes)

4 thoughts on “ashes to ashes, funk to funky

  1. Stumbled on this while researching some Bowie Lyrics. I saw the glass spider tour Madison Square Gdn. ’87 was it? I’d never seen Bowie live before. Tix came via friend of his Serious Moonlight tour’s keyboard player.

    I’d never much liked the production of most of his albums (I thought they didn’t do justice to the songs) save a few, but I always loved his writing, and the songs themselves, especially the vocal performances.

    It was at this concert that my view of him as an artist changed. Mostly in a silk suits (one cream, one red), he and the band literally danced the concert… brought the song to life in a way that had me shouting (inwardly) “THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT WAS IN THERE!!!!”
    The sound was HUGE and WARM, unlike the relatively thin and “tinny” sound of records. You were absolutely forced to get up and DANCE… and everyone did…

    I wasn’t seated particularly close at all, yet felt for the first time every at any concert, the sense of being dragged out of my nose-bleed seat, through the air and down to the front row. It was utterly surreal. I’ve used the experience as a metaphorical premise for my voice students ever since.

    Completely relaxed, swinging and swaying, dancing as if suspended in thin air…. he was, though his performance energy, able to make every single member of the audience feel like they (I mean LITERALLY) were sitting in the first row. Song ends, back to whatever seat you were actually in… Next song… Woosh, down to the front row.

    I’d never felt this experience at ANY concert. Your seat was your seat.
    So it was his “energy” that caused you to feel this intimacy, this closeness, made all the more remarkable by the fact that his dance movements were not at all large & “stagey”, it was as if he were at a small club and the audience, one at a time, were his dance partner.

    I knew something other than stagecraft was at work.
    And I set about learning everything I could about projecting “energy” (vs singing really really loud). This was a teaching breakthrough for me…

    The main problem rockers face is trying to over project, leading to all kinds of vocal damage.
    I’d use this experience as proof that one could “draw” a stadium sized audience “into the front row”, if you worked on basically doing what he did…
    Using the principle of attraction vs promotion.

    That one concert remains the quintessential demonstation of the technique… no screaming, no constant waving of arms, in fact a very “personal” 2 hours. He turned to the band & danced with them as often as he faced the audience (usually something you do VERY sparingly)…
    Yet everyone went nuts….

    We were all in this “small dance club” he’d created WITHIN the huge “spider-light-theatrics-thing”.

    He’d taken the hugeness, and turned it into intimacy. It proved to me that the set made no difference, one way or the other…
    Everything that really happened, happened between him, the band, and the audience.

    Your initial comment that the live video of “Ashes”, which I just viewed, was your favorite rendition of Ashes To Ashes.
    I’d wager that probably almost any live performance of any of his songs (sans performances when he was wasted) would all be our favorite renditions.. (if had video of all of them).
    David Bowie self-admittedly lived onstage… felt more alive onstage than off.

    This singular ability he had… to be both subtle & huge at the same time, has yet to be duplicated in a large arena in my personal experience. It also serves as a lesson that less can be more, and it’s what you can “project and connect” of your energy to the audience, that’s important….
    And for musician’s purposes, that is all that matters.

  2. Thanks a million for taking the time to write this paragraphs here and share this with me. Unfortunately I haven’t seen Bowie live, but what you’ve described sounds absolutely incredible and I hope I’ll get to see someone who’ll make me feel like that.

    • I’m certain you will. We (my generation, I was 23 in 1980) were spoiled in a way, because from the early seventies on, there were so many phenomenal acts on tour, whatever your musical taste, there was a genius to give you that experience, AND GIVE IT OT YOU LIVE, which is the only real way to experience music. Carlos Santana has done it for over 40 years. Earth Wind & Fire (who’s records I wasn’t really a huge fan of) literally, tore up the place live. These were all musicians that rose to prominence in an era where you HAD to be phenomenal live.

      Records brought the audiences in, and because of the way most recording contracts were written, you made most of your money from the live shows, not the record sales.

      I always suggest that students practically forgo food (certainly video games, [$12 for McDonalds WTF?], the latest clothes & other trinkets of our fad-culture) to save and go see every possible live music they can find. Great records are one thing, and they are their own thing. Live music (“handmade music” Tom Petty calls it) is a completely different thing.

      It’s not just “seeing the record on stage”. It reminds us (when it’s good) that music IS energy, and that the audience is a participant in that energy. Bowie lived for that experience. I know it’s not the same, but the video of Let’s Dance From the Serious Moonlight Tour displays what I was describing (all except the actual “being there” part of it).

      Watch “Let’s Dance” from Serious Moonlight to get the idea. This is to an arena audience of 20,000+ remember. Notice the intimate interaction with (apparently) just the audience in the front.

      He doesn’t appear to being “playing” at all to the back of the hall. However what he’s doing, is simply “pulling” the back of the hall to the front. You felt that you had the same view as the cameraman does. It’s as good a video example of his particular magic as I can find.

      He’s doing it from start to finish, but watch particularly from just around time 3:20 (the guitar solo).
      He’s sort of “dancing with himself”, but the audience experiences this as him dancing with each of them.

  3. I gave up lots of stuff to save money to go see bands I like. Especially trendy clothes and eating out. And each and every time I did that, I felt it was totally worth it. And I totally agree, nothing compares to live music.
    A good band on stage is able to give you moods and feelings you probably didn’t even know that were in you. I’ve seen a few shows that literally left me with no words, and with amazement all over my face. On stage, the band is able to play with the songs, with the audience…they can twitch and alter sounds for something unique every time. And I find that truly amazing.
    The best show – or better said the show I loved the most – I’ve seen till now was by a US band called Arms and Sleepers. I still get shivers when I hear some of the songs they performed live. And I remember gestures and sounds from that show. I’m gonna see them again in a few months and I am already excited.
    That’s all I hope from a show really, to leave something memorable in my head. And for that memory to live as much as
    The video is amazing. I sometimes think that these kinda shows are somewhere in the past. The public is just not the same, cause the new generations are not the same, and behave totally different. But I’m sure I’m gonna see amazing stuff in the future, just like I’ve seen so far.
    Still, I am yet to see the perfect – for me – performance πŸ™‚

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