We all have that one musician we have never seen live, and it eats at us. I'm not talking about some new U.K. buzz band. I'm talking about someone influential and essential -- someone on David Bowie's level. For me, and a good lot of fans, I'm specifically talking about the Thin White Duke.
Bowie's last local performance was at the Target Center in January 2004, and to be perfectly honest, I can't specifically remember what conflict kept me from attending that show. Looking back on it now, I made the wrong choice that evening. In a metamorphic career such as Bowie's, 10 years is an eternity. In any given decade since Bowie first released his eponymous 1967 debut album, he's changed styles and sounds countless times. Especially considering his recent creative reawakening, the world is aching to see him onstage again, or for the very first time.
Bowie's surprising reemergence from the rarefied ether on the divisive but ultimately brilliant The Next Day in early 2013 reminded anyone who foolishly forgot that Bowie had plenty of musical tricks left up his always fashionable sleeve.
The album shocked us all with its unplanned and unpublicized arrival, but no one-off performances or string of tour dates in support of the record have taken place or been announced. The music is left to stand proudly on its own, without any of Bowie's visual stage theatrics to bring them further to life, on Mars or otherwise.
Over his career, the space-age glam of Ziggy Stardust, the Soul Star of Young Americans, the New Wave art punk of Diamond Dogs, the icy Berlin cool of the Thin White Duke, or the triumphant pop spectacle of his Serious Moonlight and Glass Spider tours, Bowie has dramatically transformed himself right along with his music. He dares his fans to try to keep up. To deny his fans the opportunity to check in after 10 long years away (or more, in my case) borders on cruelty.
In the fantastic BBC documentary David Bowie: Five Years (currently airing on Showtime in the U.S.), director Francis Whately focuses on five distinct turning points, both musically and physically, in Bowie's career, and how those movements changed the direction of modern music as well as David's own creative and personal life. The documentary provides an inside look into Bowie remaking himself and his sound time and again, throughout the '70s and early '80s, all while changing the face and direction of modern music in the process.
People often marvel, rightly, at Radiohead's innovative ability to totally revamp their sound as they made their way from the buzz-band success of "Creep" through the dire contemporary dialogue of OK Computer straight through to the claustrophobic, isolated din of Kid A and Amnesiac. That's all well and good, Thom and co. But now go do that four or five more times, lads, because that is what Bowie has done throughout his hallowed career, all while keeping a few pioneering steps ahead of both industry expectations and tedious trends.
Next: David Bowie is keeping us current.
That's yet another reason for Bowie to hit the road again after taking the past decade off -- to poignantly show all of us just how behind the times we are, even in this continually plugged-in, social media-saturated society of ours. And in the process, Bowie would encourage us to join him in the Next Day, the one we know is coming but the one that he's already arrived in -- the one that seems so much more promising and refreshingly modern than this dreary and drab current one.
Paul McCartney recently proved in his triumphant Target Field performance that a musician eligible for AARP can offer more than mere nostalgia and Top 40 hits at the heart of his continued success. While Bowie will never have McCartney's effortless, "aw, shucks" charm or his rampant commercial success with the Beatles, he does have the same inventive endurance that keeps us all listening decade after decade. The Next Day receiving a nomination for the U.K.'s prestigious Mercury Music Prize shows Bowie can still please critics.
Those new songs sound great on record. If Bowie is healthy enough to do so, he should bring them to the stage. Not only to ignite yet another phenomenon in a career filled with them for young fans and longtime supporters, but also specifically so I can finally -- selfishly -- cross him off the top spot on my bucket list.
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