'David Bowie - The Glass Spider Tour'
(David Bowie / DVD / NR / (1988) 2007 / Virgin - EMI)
Overview: This is the digitally remastered (2007) 20th Anniversary Edition of this fantastic live package recorded on Bowie's extravagant Glass Spider Tour as he promoted his 1987 album Never Let Me Down.
DVD Verdict: Towards the end of the performance, there’s a moment that crystallizes the Glass Spider tour’s aesthetic in all it’s dubious glory: Bowie, outfitted in a silver lamé track suit and a shiny gold lamé sportscoat, wearing what appears to be shiny white patent leather cowboy boots (winged cowboy boots, no less), with a poofy bouffant adding about three inches to his height, strumming on one of those silly headless guitars while singing—heh—“White Light / White Heat”. It’s easy enough to imagine, in hindsight, that no one in the ‘80s really had any idea just how silly they would look just a few years later. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt as far as that goes.
But there’s quite a bit of “benefit of the doubt” required to fully appreciate the material on display in Glass Spider—more than, to be fair, most casual fans or aficionados will be willing to extend. The Glass Spider tour from which this material is taken is already one of the most controversial interludes in a career filled to the brim with controversial interludes. Frankly, at times it’s hard to see just what Bowie was thinking!
So how to appreciate the spectacle that is the Glass Spider? In this instance I believe it is best to take his intentions at face value. To some degree, Bowie is the victim of his own cult: for a solid decade he manufactured one of the most storied careers in the history of pop music by constructing his output around an intricate series of nested narratives. You can trace the classic era through the iconic symbols he crafted (or were crafted around him) to serve as conceptual vehicles: space-age oddity, Ziggy Stardust, “plastic soul”, the Thin White Duke, Berlin.
If the phrase had existed in 1987, it would be “multimedia extravaganza”: with dancers, costume changes, video screens and (obviously) a giant glass spider dominating the set, the spectacle minimizes the “rock concert” aspects in flavor of a loose storyline, with science-fiction narration provided by Bowie himself and a handful of seriously daft interstitial passages! This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not come any Special Features.