Remember the time you were at a concert and you really needed to pee? Now, remember the sound of the concert you were at from behind the walls of the cubicle as you went about your business. That’s almost how this concert recording from the windy city in early October 1972 sounds. It was the fifth show on Bowie first legitimate concert tour of America and sandwiched between the shows in Boston and Detroit. A few song in however, and the quality begins to improve. This was Bowie’s make or break tour of America. He would return during the early months of 1973 to play much larger venues as his star began to shine brightly but for now, he was playing small theaters, often half empty as American’s struggled to come to terms with the strange alien like creature that had invaded their shores. The crowd who did arrive to see Ziggy on this night were rewarded with an impeccable show from someone or something that he most likely had never experienced before or after for that matter.
Halfway through the show, Bowie stops during the intro to Andy Warhol because of technical issues. During this period he jokes with some of the audience, sprinkling some of his stardust over them, reeling them in. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a Bowie fan in America during 1972. Remember, it was all tight jeans and t-shirts back then so stepping out from the shadows to profess your love for a cross dressing Englishman would have led to some severe harassment. Train crashes were the flavor of the month in 1972. The night before Ziggy’s first appearance in Chicago, 208 people died in a train derailment in Mexico whilst at the end of the month, some 45 commuters perished in a morning train crash in the city of Chicago itself.
Overall, the recording reveals a nervous band, not yet at the tight sound that would be on show for all to see later in the tour. Bowie’s vocals do however, have a raw spark and he hits some deliciously high notes, particularly during Width Of A Circle. It’s part of the subtle charm when a performer is not quite there yet. A lot of the material played at this show was only a few months old and had only been in record stores for an even shorter period of time.
There is indeed an interesting historical connection to this show as it was the first time that The Jean Genie was performed live. It had only been recorded the day before in a studio and would be released as a single a month later for the Christmas market. In the days prior to this recording, Bowie laid his own version of All The Young Dudes to tape in New York as well. Quite the prolific week one could suggest. Two iconic songs recorded and a couple of shows to boot.
Whist not by any means, the best quality of bootlegs, this Ziggy show in Chicago is a view through the looking glass at an artist on the verge of greatness. It first saw the light of day to the wider collecting community in August 2014 and i’m glad it found its way out of the cupboard from wherever it did in fact spring from. Now, what did I do with that time machine?
Ode To Joy/Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/The Supermen/Queen Bitch/Changes/Life On Mars?/Five Years/Space Oddity/Andy Warhol/My Death/The Width Of A Circle/John, I’m Only Dancing/Moonage Daydream/Starman/Waiting For The Man/White Light, White Heat/Suffragette City/The Jean Genie