Live: Cobo Hall, Detroit

David Bowie performed at Detroit’s Cobo Hall on 20 April 1978, as part of the Isolar II Tour.

It was the first of two consecutive nights at the venue. Bowie had previously performed there on 23 June 1974, during the Diamond Dogs Tour.

The security guards were unusually heavy-handed during the performance, and beat up some fans who came to the front of the stage during the second half. Bowie stopped the performance during ‘Ziggy Stardust’, telling a guard: “”You! No! That is not necessary! Too many fucking people have been fucking hurt in places like this. Don’t do it. We’re not playing or singing no more, man, unless it’s enjoyable.”

The song was restarted, but it quickly faltered, and Carlos Alomar instead struck up the opening notes of ‘Suffragette City’.

Cobo Hall was a great place to play – 12,000 is a good size and the crowd were wild, really jumping. Rough cities usually have great audiences Glasgow, Hamburg, Detroit – they either love you or hate you and really let you know it. In the second half, kids were coming down the front, taking photos, throwing scarves, waving banners, photos, anything to attract his attention. But what soon attracted mine was the violence of the bouncers who were really laying into the kids. That kind of thing makes it hard to play, and as one of the group there’s nothing you can do – except wait for David to notice. I caught Carlos’ eye. We were playing ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and we could feel David was unhappy. He fluffed a couple of lines then waved his arms – ‘Stop! Stop that! You and you… we don’t need you! Get out!’ The husky voice rang out in the hall and the crowd stirred.

The men looked up, sullen and embarrassed in the loud silence, the lights on them. Eric was down at the front in a flash, grabbing them, hustling them out – he’s come close to being beaten up himself a few times confronting bouncers.

The music started again but David blew the next line, too upset to sing. So Carlos started the grinding guitar phrase of ‘Suffragette City’ and as we all swung into the pounding intro, the crowd cheered and David used his adrenalin to spit out the lines… Hey man! Ah, leave me alone, you know! Hey man! The crowd shouted and stomped along and the mood was broken.

Sean Mayes
Life On Tour With Bowie

The setlist

Last updated: 19 May 2023
Live: Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis
Live: Cobo Hall, Detroit
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