Rehearsal: Madison Square Garden, New York

David Bowie rehearsed for a concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden on 8 January 1997, his 50th birthday.

The show took place the following day. Billed as ‘David Bowie And Friends: A Very Special Concert’, he shared the stage with Foo Fighters, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, Pixies’ Frank Black, Sonic Youth, and Lou Reed. The support act was Placebo.

Bowie and his band rehearsed eleven songs on this day, not all of which were played at the concert:

The day that Frank Black showed up to rehearsals, David had said to me: ‘I’m not going to sing every verse or every song.’ He wanted to save his voice for the show. So we start playing ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’, and Frank Black takes the first verse and just destroys it in the best possible way. Before the first chorus is done, David is out at his mic to sing the next verse. I think it was a little bit of wanting to join the pre-party party, but also a little competitive in the best possible sense.

Everyone was kind of intimidated by Lou Reed. Not David. But all of us youngsters were like: ‘Don’t piss off dad!’ Lou was kind of surly. Not ridiculous, just a little New York grumpy. I had to sit with Lou and teach him ‘Queen Bitch’. So we’re playing it, and he keeps doing this one chord that’s not right. I’d written the chord changes down, and I said to him: ‘There’s one chord there that you’re having trouble with?’

And he goes: ‘Yes, this one,’ and points to it. And I said: ‘Well, that’s a D chord.’ He goes: ‘That’s not a D chord – that’s an awfully weak spine for a D. It looks like an O chord.’ So I took my Sharpie out, made the spine straight, and said: ‘That should do it, right Lou?’ And he goes: ‘Yeah.’ I don’t know if he was doing it just to be funny.

Reeves Gabrels
Last updated: 24 November 2023
Rehearsal: Madison Square Garden, New York
Live: Madison Square Garden, New York – David Bowie's 50th birthday concert
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