Diamond Dogs Tour

After moving to America in the spring of 1974, David Bowie initially stayed in a series of New York hotels, before renting apartments on West Seventeenth Street and West Twentieth Street.

In April 1974 he began putting together a new touring band for the Diamond Dogs tour. He also saw numerous live acts in the city, including various soul musicians such as Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and the Spinners.

The Diamond Dogs Tour opened on 14 June in Montreal. It was extravagantly staged and carefully choreographed; Bowie’s most spectacular show to date, although often beset with failing props.

After the first few shows in Canada, the tour travelled across the United States. Bowie’s concerts at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater on 14 and 15 July were recorded and released in October as David Live.

The first part of the tour ended on 20 July at New York’s Madison Square Garden. A month-long break in live performance gave Bowie chance to regroup, rethink and rework his sound again, during which he recorded the bulk of the Young Americans album.

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Diamond Dogs had marked the end of Bowie’s glam rock phase. The tour resumed in September 1974, with a week of shows at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, but the singer was rapidly losing interest in the older arrangements and the unwieldy stage show.

Speaking to reporter Robert Hilburn after the first LA show, Bowie wished to talk about the unfinished Young Americans, rather than promote the forthcoming David Live.

This isn’t the new album, but the one after it, and the record company doesn’t like me to do that. They want me to talk about the new one, the live one that’ll be out soon. But I’m so excited about this one. We cut it in a week in Philadelphia and it can tell you more about where I am now than anything I could say.
David Bowie
Melody Maker, 14 September 1974

Bowie’s image had changed with the music. In place of the glam-era hair and clothes he wore pleated trousers, braces (suspenders), conservative shoes rather than platform boots, and cotton shirts. His spiky Ziggy Stardust hairstyle had gone, and in its place were more luxuriant tresses, dyed a softer red, swept back at the sides. These changed caught his acolytes on the back foot, many of whom still wore glitter and lightning bolt make up.

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At the behest of his manager Tony Defries, Bowie agreed to retain the Hunger City stage show for the Los Angeles concerts, but new songs were already entering the mix: ‘Young Americans’, ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, and an encore of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’, a soulful reworking of his 1972 song.

Once I got to Los Angeles and did the shows in the Amphitheatre there, I’d already done 30 of them and it was terrible. There’s nothing more boring than a stylised show, because there was no spontaneity and no freedom of movement. Everything was totally choreographed and it was very stiff… I can’t speak as an audience but certainly, as a performer, it was hard to keep it up, trekking all over the country doing the same thing night after night.
David Bowie
Melody Maker, 13 March 1976

Soul Tour

The Hunger City stage show was finally junked during a short break in the tour, after a promoter cancelled seven dates following high demands from Tony Defries. The $400,000 set was donated to a public school in Philadelphia, and Bowie set about reworking the stage show.

The rest of the tour was rebranded the Soul Tour, and the shows were billed as David Bowie and the Garson Band – named after pianist Mike Garson, who had replaced Michael Kamen as the tour’s musical director.

Bowie’s band had been kept mostly out of sight during the Diamond Dogs Tour, but they were brought to the fore for the Soul Tour dates. Other members of this touring band were guitarists Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick, bassist Emir Ksasan, drummer Dennis Davis, saxophonist David Sanborn, percussionist Pablo Rosario, and backing singers Warren Peace (Geoff MacCormack), Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Luther Vandross, Anthony Hinton, and Diane Sumler.