Among the many David Bowies whom we mourn the loss of today, one who has gotten less attention is David Bowie the live performer. Just as he metamorphosed into a new persona for what seemed like every album, he also continuously reinvented his live show, designing elaborate new costumes and stage layouts for each transformation: a German Expressionist cityscape for the Diamond Dogs tour, a throwback jazz club for the Serious Moonlight tour, alien parachute pants for the Aladdin Sane tour, and so on. In this sense, it was no surprise when Kanye West described Bowie this morning as “one of [his] most important inspirations.”
Sadly, we won’t get to see Bowie reinvent himself on tour. In fact, while he continued reinventing himself on album and in music videos up until the very end, he hasn’t toured since 2004, when a heart attack cut short his Reality tour. So it’s official: This 2006 charity performance, from the Keep a Child Alive organization’s annual Black Ball fundraiser, is his last.
The choice of song is a fitting one. In addition to being Bowie’s first hit, “Changes” touches on some of the biggest themes of his career: In the face of changing times, for example, Bowie sings, “Just gonna have to be a different man.” But to me the key part—and one of the only parts of Bowie’s message to remain constant—is expressed in the second verse:
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same.
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.
There is, in a sense, one more show left. As Stereogum points out, the New York Times announced a David Bowie tribute show at Carnegie Hall just hours before his death. The Roots, Cyndi Lauper, the Mountain Goats, Perry Farrell, and many others were already all set to appear, and I’m going to guess that the bill will only become more star-studded now that Bowie is gone. That’s good, because it’s going to take an army to try to recreate David Bowie.
Read more in Slate about David Bowie.