I’ve decided to touch down on this concert today because it was my first Bowie concert. Luckily, I’d seen him only the day before perform Cactus and Everyone Says Hi on the Jay Leno show. I’d not actually had a ticket to the Leno show despite lining up at 5 am to get a ticket. It was all down to Simone that I managed to get in to see the taping of the show and more importantly, Bowie’s performance. Between songs, I had managed to get a small conversation in with Bowie about Australia, Mambo board shorts and a BBQ he said he would join me at. The bastard never got around to coming to mine for a BBQ. Oh well. The main thing was, I was pumped for the following nights show just outside of LA in Irvine. In 2002 the venue was called the “Verizon Wireless Amphitheater” and on August 13th 2002, I would attend my first ever David Bowie concert! The venue was an open area holding around 16,000 people and Bowie was the headline of the day long festival run by eccentric DJ and singer, Moby. It had been 20 years or so since the venue was first opened. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were the first act to perform there on September 18 1981.
The 2002 festival offering included not just Bowie and Moby as the alternating headline acts but Busta Rhymes, Ash, Blue Man Group, Carl Cox John Digweed among others. It was a fabulous day out. Upon arrival, we had to leave our back packs in the car as there had been a shooting at the venue only two weeks prior. I remember it being a very warm summers day with not a cloud in the sky for the entire duration. Whilst the warm up acts were good (my first time seeing Blue Man Group who are incredibly fascinating) I’d only really flown half way around the world for one reason. And that was for the Bowie set.
He didn’t disappoint either, delivering a 16 song strong set that included plenty of songs from his then new LP, Heathen as well as a smattering of songs from across his entire career. The only shame is that the concert didn’t stretch on for longer. The recording I have of the show is in fine quality. The start of Life On Mars? is a little sketchy but it all picks up from there and the rest of the recording is sublime. A personal highlight for me was well, everything! Being my first Bowie concert, I loved every moment and hung off his every word between numbers. The guitar solo during I’ve Been Waiting For You was nothing short of electric and 5;15, The Angels Have Gone was quite emotive, in part because it was Bowie’s personal favorite from the Heathen album. Having been a fan for 10 years by this point in my life, the longest of waits to see him play live was worth every penny.
The following day, I would be off to San Francisco to see the show there but from a personal perspective, the LA performance was hands down, the better of the two and having such a great sounding recording of the show as a memento makes it all the more better. If I could list one regret, it would be that the show wasn’t long enough. However, just over 12 months later, I would be rewarded with those long set lists on the A Reality Tour in Europe and Australia. There is a video recording of this concert as well but it’s kind of nice to just close the eyes and put oneself back in the picture during that hot August night in 2002. A wonderful memory that I’ll be able to take to the grave with me.
And what of the Irvine Meadows Arena? Well, it was knock down in 2016 after more than 35 years and 900 concerts. What is it now you ask? Well, they are building a set of apartments on the vacant land which is a real shame because this is one live venue that should have been allowed to stand the test of time and soldier on.
SET LIST: Life On Mars?/Ashes To Ashes/Breaking Glass/Cactus/China Girl/Slip Away/Stay/Fame/I’m Afraid Of Americans/I’ve Been Waiting For You/5:15, The Angels Have Gone/”Heroes”/Heathen/Let’s Dance/Ziggy Stardust