Live: Palais des Sports, Marseille

David Bowie performed at the Palais des Sports in Marseille, France, on 27 May 1978, as part of the Isolar II Tour.

It was the 42nd date of the tour, which began on 29 March in San Diego.

Bowie’s guitarists were Carlos Alomar and Adrian Belew. Simon House was on electric violin, Sean Mayes played piano, and Roger Powell was on keyboards and synthesizers. George Murray played bass guitar and Dennis Davis was on drums.

At the gig, a huge concrete sports hall, the road crew were sunbathing on top of their trucks. Inside, the dressing-rooms were simply an area screened off with canvas. It was comfortable enough but I think we all had in mind that Marseille had a reputation as a very tough town. Keith Richards told David that the Stones had chairs thrown at them here.

Like Lyons it was a young scruffy crowd but they were noisily welcoming and the show went well – ‘Warszawa’, “Heroes”‘Jean Genie’. We had just finished ‘Blackout’ when there was a sound like speakers farting, then the lights went. For a moment we all stood there stunned, then Carlos shouted ‘Off-stage everyone!’ We covered the space between the stage and dressing-room area under the eyes of the crowd. Eric came in.

‘We’ve got to get out, guys. Where are the cars?’

The cars were out at the back, locked and empty and facing the wrong way. I found the drivers and explained we had to leave – d’urgence! We walked out, casually sauntering to the back exit. David, captain of the ship, came last to give us maximum time before the crowd started to riot.

It was an unpleasant, tense and silent ride back to the hotel. Eric sent us up to our rooms and told us not to come out at all that night. There was a horrible feeling of anticlimax and frustration.

Then Eric called – apparently there was some hope of the gig being saved. It was strange driving back to the hall. There was a roar when we took to the stage and I felt some kind of nervous exhiliration as on the first night. The stage neon lighting rig was dead so everything was lit starkly by the follow-spots out front. It felt like doing a show for the troops just behind the front line – the neons didn’t blaze but the music did.

Sean Mayes
Life On Tour With Bowie

The setlist

Last updated: 17 October 2023
Live: Palais des Sports, Lyon
Television: Musikladen
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