Ziggy Stardust Global Premiere at Hammersmith Apollo: A legendary farewell
- Published on Tuesday, 04 July 2023 11:02
- Last Updated on 04 July 2023
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
In a momentous event that took place last night – 3 July 2023, the ‘Ziggy Stardust: The Global Premiere’ graced the stage at Hammersmith Apollo, marking the 50th anniversary of a concert that changed perceptions and inspired a generation. As I sat amongst the crowd in the circle area, London Mums magazine reporter Laura had the privilege of conversing with a fellow concertgoer who had attended the famous 1973 gig, where David Bowie bid farewell to his iconic Ziggy Stardust persona. It was clear that Bowie’s impact extended beyond his music, challenging societal norms and embracing otherness in a time of prejudice.
Ziggy Stardust’s story of an alien rock star captivated the imagination of a 18-year-old boy, and this particular fan shared his undying love for Bowie, recounting the pivotal moments that sparked his “Bowiephilia.” However, it was not only Bowie’s striking appearance and androgynous allure that drew people in; it was the combination of his enigmatic persona and the incredible music that truly captivated audiences. Bowie’s ability to sing with exceptional skill and emotional depth was truly remarkable.
Reflecting on the 1973 UK tour, it becomes evident that Bowie’s approach to live performances differed greatly from today’s financial-driven model. His exhaustive tour aimed not only to entertain but also to generate album sales, often resulting in gruelling schedules and occasional losses. Nevertheless, Bowie’s dedication to his craft was unwavering, evident in the media frenzy that followed his tour, with headlines reporting ripped seats and fainting fans.
As this fan reminisced about that unforgettable evening on 3 July, 1973, outside the Hammersmith Odeon, the atmosphere was electric. Film crews roamed, capturing the essence of the fashion parade that unfolded before our eyes. Bowie’s fans dressed in Aladdin Sane-style makeup, towering platform shoes, and adorned themselves with sparkle and glitter. The anticipation was palpable.
When Bowie finally took the stage, his performance was nothing short of sublime. Lithe and sinuous, he mesmerised the crowd with his powerful delivery and stage presence. Girls were fainting like at the Beatles’ gigs a few year earlier. The instrumental interlude during “The Width of a Circle” showcased the virtuosity of his band, leaving the audience in awe. Strobes, a glitter ball for “Space Oddity,” and the grand finale of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” ignited screams and a surge of emotion from the fans. Bowie’s announcement that it would be their final show left an indelible impact on all who were present.
Looking back at that historic night through the lens of DA Pennebaker’s recently restored 1979 documentary, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, I can feel like a eureka moment about what rock rebels – such as Bowie who became the ultimate star through a transformative moment in music history, have taught us over the years. For many, this concert was a turning point in their lives. Bowie’s pioneering use of make-up, photography, and gender-bending fashion pushed boundaries and challenged societal norms. Through his ever-evolving personas, he became a symbol of self-expression, inspiring young people who were grappling with their own identities.
The film captures intimate moments of Bowie in his dressing room, exchanging banter with his wife Angie and showcasing the behind-the-scenes effort that went into his extraordinary costumes.
Onstage, the familiarity of Bowie’s songs takes on a new dimension, with a rawness and immediacy that is both powerful and poignant. Moments such as his rendition of “Space Oddity,” with the whispered afterthought of “she knows,” exemplify the profound emotional depth he brought to his performance. There are moments of humour too, like the line in “Time” that invites both laughter and reflectional thoughts. Bowie’s eclectic set-list, incorporating vocal samples of the Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and guest appearances by guitarist Jeff Beck, added unexpected surprises to an already legendary performance.
Members of David Bowie’s legendary rock band, The Spiders from Mars, including Mike Garson, Geoff MacCormack, and Michael “Woody” Woodmansey, were present at the event and expressed their sentiments about returning to the venue where they had made history 50 years earlier.
For US pianist Mike Garson, memories of that fateful night in 1973 and the dedicated fan base came flooding back during the premiere. Garson, who played the opening piano medley of Bowie’s songs live, spoke about his role in warming up the audience and paying homage to Bowie’s influence.
“It’s kind of like an overture,” Garson explained. “He liked me going out warming up the audience with some of his songs that I’m doing tonight.”
Recalling the intensity of the fans from the original concert, Garson shared a vivid recollection, saying, “We would go into the limo after the show and crazy fans were like holding on to the mirrors of the cars. Someone’s foot got run over because someone was trying to cut some of David’s hair off.”
Geoff MacCormack, also known as Warren Peace, expressed a sense of nostalgia upon returning to the Hammersmith Apollo. Despite the venue’s name change, he noted that little had changed on the inside. Stepping onto the stage again brought back a rush of memories for MacCormack, reflecting the lasting impact of the performance.
Michael “Woody” Woodmansey, the drummer for The Spiders from Mars, was excited to witness the remastered version of the film, recognising its significance in rock and roll history. Reflecting on the unexpected opportunity to witness their own performance 50 years later, Woodmansey stated, “I never thought that would happen. I guess it’s become a part of rock and roll history.”
Woodmansey also expressed his anticipation for the improved digital sound and the inclusion of previously edited-out scenes in the remastered film, such as a performance by the late Jeff Beck.
Meanwhile, actor Richard E. Grant paid homage to the glam rock era and David Bowie’s iconic Ziggy Stardust persona. Attending the screening, Grant embraced the retro style with towering leather platforms, a Union Jack blazer, a matching waistcoat, and patchwork flares, capturing the essence of the late Life on Mars hit-maker.
“Ziggy Stardust: The Global Premiere” returning to the Hammersmith Apollo, accompanied by a nationwide cinematic release throughout July, reminds us of Bowie’s enduring influence on our cultural landscape. His artistic vision introduced us to avant-garde movements, minimalism, and a multitude of creative disciplines, including art, photography, music, and fashion.
Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in this legendary concert that shook the world and bid farewell to an icon. “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is a testament to Bowie’s profound impact and continues to inspire generations, even fifty years later. It will be shown in cinemas across the UK now and available on Blu-ray/CD from 11 August 2023.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums