When the Glastonbury messiah returns, the music world stand up and takes notice. On a warm summer evening in late June back in the year 2000, it was Bowie’s turn to shine on stage as he delivered a killer set to a hungry crowd. For the first time this year, Radio BBC decided to broadcast the full set from their archives for the very first time. Previously, there had been incomplete versions of this show floating about in cyberspace and on CD but now we have it all. and what a show it was! This was also the first time Bowie had performed at the festival since his only previous appearance all the way back in 1971 when he took to the stage at 4 am with an acoustic guitar to play a one hour set to all the hippies as they rose from their slumber around the Pyramid Stage.
First off, he only comes out and belts out a resounding version of Wild Is The Wind. It’s a shame that he didn’t perform this number more over the years. There’s always a resounding magic about this song when you hear it live. What follows is a masterclass in how to drop a festival crowd in the palm of you hand and rattle through classic song after classic song with a few recent numbers sprinkled in for good measure. As the opening chords of Stay bellow out, Bowie pays tribute to Earl Slick with great admiration. He reflects constantly on his first Glasto performance throughout and the show feels quite nostalgic all the way to the very end, something not normally akin to a live Bowie concert of this nature. It should be noted that around this time, Bowie was digging back into his archive to perform songs from the 1960’s and he was even in the process of recording old songs with a new life for the ill fate Toy LP that would be shelved a year later. This caused Bowie to change record labels and release Heathen in 2002 where some of the Toy material survived in the form of updated versions or B-Sides to singles.
Initially, Glastonbury owner, Michael Eavis didn’t want Bowie to play the festival after seeing him perform at the London Astoria only a few months before in late 1999. However, Bowie’s people tipped off the press that Bowie was the main target for Glasto 2000 (he wasn’t) and with media hype, Eavis performed a 180 and set Bowie down to headline. Following the show, Eavis told anyone who would listen in the press that he felt Bowie was the best headline act he had ever hired. He would go on to label Bowie’s set, “a fantastic moment – I think maybe that was my best Glastonbury moment of all time. That was so brilliant.” How true this is could be subject to some skepticism after what happened in London the year before but I guess we will never really know. Either way, it was a masterstroke.
Two days later, Bowie would play the BBC Radio Theater in London and by then, his voice was almost gone so it is a blessing that it held out for this marvelous set at Glastonbury. Now that we finally have the complete broadcast available, I can’t recommend this show enough. For newcomers, it’s a cracking introduction to his live work and for us older fans, it makes for the perfect trip down memory lane. The show was also filmed in full by the BBC and broadcast in full on a large screen during the 2016 Glastonbury Festival. You cannot help but imagine how nice it would be if this one day saw the light of day as a DVD/CD release on the official market? I’m more than certain it would be gobbled up by the bucket load by his army of fans around the world.
SETLIST: Wild Is The Wind/Changes/Stay/Life On Mars?/Absolute Beginners/Ashes To Ashes/Rebel Rebel/Little Wonder/Golden Years/Fame/All The Young Dudes/The Man Who Sold The World/Station To Station/Starman/Hallo Spaceboy/Under Pressure/Ziggy Stardust/Heroes/Let’s Dance/I’m Afraid Of Americans