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David Bowie “Serious Moonlight” DVD Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Initial hesitation to the teeth-grittingly-bad Davie Bowie of the early ‘80s that lived in my head shortly gave way to the real David Bowie of 1983 mere minutes into the footage. The Bowie I saw was powerful, sharp and even funky; I was witnessing the David Bowie who I never knew existed. There has always been some sort of hesitation for me when it comes to Bowie in terms of rock history and his place in it, with most of my reluctance stemming back to the Bowie of the ’80s. David Bowie, as I had always thought to have known, had lost his great innovative style during this time period and now many of my generation might only know the man as a reference from The Wedding Singer or from the lackluster electronic albums he’s released in years past. It’s for reasons along these lines that it always seemed as though Bowie’s downturn was during the ’80s, and the Serious Moonlight period to be exact. As hinted at earlier, however, I was oh so wrong.

The concert itself, filmed at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibit Coliseum, blazes through a set list which touches on hits from all stages of his career; “Life on Mars,” “Space Oddity,” “Young Americans,” and “Golden Years.” The concert also highlights “China Girl,” “Cat People” and “Let’s Dance” from the 1983 Let’s Dance album which Bowie was touring in support of at the time. All are played with an energy and bounce that was previously unfamiliar to me when thinking of David Bowie. The backing band for the tour included the late drummer Tony Thompson (Chic, The Power Station), current Saturday Night Live musical director Lenny Pickett and among others, long time Bowie guitarist, Earl Slick.

The supplementary documentary Ricochet follows Bowie through his travels in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. We witness as Bowie immerses himself in the local culture, diving into ancient architecture, opera, cuisine and medicines. What’s fascinating is how truly Westernized some parts of Asia were already becoming. Ricochet documents a group of young boys who play in a Bowie tribute band as they try to scrounge enough money to afford to see the show. There are a variety of humorous situations as well. In Singapore, a taxi driver explains how drugs are viewed by the government as horrible enough a crime to merit execution. He further explains to Bowie that chewing gum has been outlawed; culture clash to say the least. Further along, during an interview, Bowie fittingly suggests that he sees himself leaning towards more synthesizer based music in the future. Could 1983 have lead to his downfall after all? Not likely. But for the sake of discussion, and to save face, 1983 was the start of a superstar’s downfall (but not really).

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]