Wednesday, January 13, 2016

David Bowie returns to Ohio (feature flashback)

Check out the following feature I wrote for the COSHOCTON TRIBUNE newspaper, my first entertainment feature about a major celebrity. 

David Bowie performs at the Wembley Arena in 2003.
It was published May 13, 2004 and reposted on the wonderful David Bowie fan site, Bowie Wonderworld. This is the first time it's been posted here on Cary's Comics Craze, here as part of my ongoing tribute to my all-time favorite performer and musician.

The idea for this 2004 feature -- and what really should be a much shorter preview story -- started like this. 

I kept noticing the TRIBUNE and our sister paper, the ZANESVILLE TIMES RECORDER, published wire stories to preview entertainment events in the central Ohio area. 

While they were adequate, short and to the point, I thought they lacked a Certain Something. Being a diehard Bowiehead, I was confident I could write a much better story and asked my editor if I could handle the chores to preview David Bowie's May 24, 2004 concert in Columbus. (I should have pushed my wife at the time to let me go see my man again in concert! Anyway...) My editor said I could -- as long as I had at least three sources (hopefully, Coshocton County, Ohio residents) -- no less. 

So I busted my fanboy ass networking with as many classic rock fans and record store employees to find as many Bowie fans as I could who could share their memories with me of Bowie concerts they had attended. I had one in the bag -- Chris Yost, who attended the Cleveland show that Jan. 7 with his son Brice and me. But I had to keep digging.

Long story short, I got some killer feedback and memories! 

Without further ado, here's what ended up being a MUCH longer preview story than any of us expected. But I'm proud to say I nailed it and had my feature published in both papers on the same day -- complete with a "jump" to run the rest.

COSHOCTON, Ohio -- May 24 will herald the return of the Thin White Duke to Ohio.

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame member David Bowie will play his second Ohio gig in nearly four months at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus.

During the first U.S. leg of his 2003-2004 "A Reality" world tour, Bowie performed Jan. 7 at Cleveland State University. It is Bowie's first world tour in nearly six years.

Although not known for smash hits and million-selling albums, Bowie, 57, remains one of the hardest working entertainers in show business. His 2003 studio album, "Reality," is his sixth in 10 years. The May 24 gig in Columbus will be the 100th show in a tour that started Oct. 7 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

As of mid-April, Bowie's tour ranked number 10 in the top 20 concert tours, according to Pollstar statistics.

Memorable concerts 

Several area residents have either attended previous Bowie concerts or plan to go to the Columbus show.

David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor sing the NIN tune
"Reptile" during the North American leg of Bowie's 1995 "Outside" tour.
Photo courtesy of bowiesongs,
Jeremy Bennett, 29, of Zanesville, saw Bowie in 1995 when the singer toured the United States for nearly six months with industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails. It was Bennett's first and so far only time to see Bowie in concert.

Bennett said he was blown away when Bowie casually walked onto the darkened stage to join Nine Inch Nails and lead singer Trent Reznor for several songs.

"It was the single greatest moment for me. The way they did it in Columbus with Trent singing -- you have no idea. I couldn't possibly imagine that in my wildest dreams," he said.

Massillon resident Phil Dottavio, 45, had a similar experience at his first Bowie concert at Cleveland Public Hall in 1976. (For that set list, go here.)

Bowie gets his groove thing on during this show on his 1976
"Station to Station" world tour.
Dottavio always enjoys the beginning of the show, what he calls "the big entrance." (Check back here at CCC; I might just write a post about Bowie's Big Entrances at concerts. I've already posted one tribute about the six shows I saw.)

"I remember how the crowd went absolutely wild as he slowly strode onto the stage. You could literally hear different sections of the hall erupt, in waves, in cheers, as he came into view," he said.

"The biggest thrill is seeing this living legend right in front of you. He has charisma that is virtually unmatched. Somewhat surprisingly, he is not aloof. He has a good rapport with the audience and talks and jokes quite a bit," Dottavio said.

Chris Yost, 47, of Coshocton, also saw Bowie in Cleveland with his son. Although he doesn't consider himself a fan,

Yost grew up with Bowie's music from the early 1970s.

"That's what made the concert so enjoyable because it was a step in the past," he said.

The late Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana performed Bowie's 1971 song "The Man Who Sold the World"
for their Nov. 18, 1993 performance for the concert series "MTV Unplugged."
Yost said Bowie's music is appealing because he uses "a varied palette" of music genres. He also thinks Bowie writes catchy, singable tunes such as "The Man Who Sold the World," covered by Nirvana in the mid-1990s. He said that sort of timelessness gives longevity to Bowie's music.

Brice Yost
"The kids who hear the Nirvana version of the song don't want to know or don't care where the original came from," Yost said.

His son, Brice, recently told Cary's Comics Craze how much he enjoyed and was looking forward to the Jan. 7, 2004 concert in Cleveland. It was his second-ever show.

"It's the concert that I compare all other concerts to, not so much the opener, but Bowie, as far as showmanship and talent, has never been surpassed," he said in 2016.

As of the spring of 2004, David Poley, 38, of Horsham, Pa., had seen Bowie in concert more than 400 times since 1978. He said he's been to shows in almost every state as well as Israel, Germany and England. He has seen Bowie nearly 20 times on this tour alone.

"To have him play a song that he pulls from his bag of tricks -- that's what makes the show," Poley said.

Poley was quite pleased when he saw Bowie perform "The Belway Brothers" -- written in 1971 and performed only rarely since then -- at St. Anne's Warehouse in New York in October 2002. 

According to Poley, he's known for getting great seats and meeting Bowie at virtually every show. 

"Every time he sees me, he's like, 'Oh my god, not him again.' I blow his mind," Poley said. "There's a few of us that everybody in the Bowie community knows. I'm one of them. There's probably eight of us."

Staying power 

Bennett, a fan since 1983, said Bowie's "staying power" can be attributed to smart business decisions.

He thinks the singer invests his money wisely and doesn't allow unsuccessful musical or touring decisions to frustrate him. Bowie always bounces back, Bennett said, and remains musically relevant.

"For me, I think the appeal of Bowie is that he's been putting out albums for 40 years. Every time he touches a genre he makes it his own. You can put in (the 1972 album THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS) and it still sounds fresh today," he said. 

Ziggy Stardust was a fictional character Bowie portrayed on stage from about 1971 until 1973.

Over the years, critics and fans pointed to the Ziggy Stardust-era as Bowie's most innovative because of the outlandish costumes, theatrical performances and musicianship of his band, the Spiders from Mars.

Dottavio, a fan for nearly three decades, took his 14-year-old son, Marc, to see Bowie in January. Marc was hooked after listening to his dad's first Bowie album, he said.

"I hadn't mentioned Bowie to him earlier because I knew if I were the one to suggest it, he probably wouldn't think it was cool. But eventually he discovered Bowie on his own and came to me, saying, 'Dad, this guy's great. Doesn't he have any other CDs?' Then the flood gates opened. Now he has his own collection of Bowie CDs," Phil Dottavio said.

The incomparable David Bowie 

From the 1970s until the mid-1980s, Bowie created other characters for various songs, albums and videos.

David Bowie plays the arrogant rock star
Screamin' Lord Byron in his long-form video/film short
"Jazzin' for Blue Jean."
He created Halloween Jack for the 1974 album DIAMOND DOGS and portrayed the Thin White Duke for his 1976 tour. He even played two roles -- Vic the nerd and rock star Screamin' Lord Byron in the 1984 video "Jazzin' for Blue Jean."

Bowie told the tale of doomed astronaut Major Tom in the bookend hits, "Space Oddity" in 1969 and "Ashes to Ashes" in 1980.

As late as 1995, Bowie used Detective Nathan Adler and other characters to voice segues between songs in his concept album OUTSIDE.

Dottavio said Bowie's dedication to being innovative, combined with a reluctance to being a mainstream artist, helps maintain his status as a cultural icon. 

"He's utterly unique. There is really no one to compare with David Bowie. He's truly in a class by himself," Dottavio said.

Poley agreed. "I think that by his doing the opposite of what the populace wants, it makes him more popular with his fan base," he said.

Bennett said he thinks Bowie owes a debt of gratitude in creating Ziggy Stardust.
Bowie created the space-alien rocker Ziggy Stardust for his 1972 album, THE RISE AND FALL OF
Although the singer only kept the character around for slightly less than two years,
Ziggy has made a massive impact on critics and fans.

"Everybody is interested in what he has to say and what he has to do because of the Ziggy Stardust thing. It gave him the right (to be heard). No one had seen anything like that before. If he had just been David Bowie, people wouldn't have been interested in him. That's what gives him staying power," he said.

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