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JULY 1st 1988 / SEPTEMBER 10th 1988



  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar

  • Reeves Gabrels: Guitar

  • Kevin Armstrong: Guitar

  • Erdal Kizilcay: Bass


Look Back In Anger

1988 was the first year for two decades in which not a single new Bowie record was released, and David's only major public endeavour was a one-off performance at London's Dominion Theatre as part of "Intruders At The Palace", a benefit concert in aid of the Institute for Contemporary Arts. Bowie elected to present a suitably avant-garde interpretation of one of his songs in collaboration with Edouard Lock, principal designer and choreographer for the Montreal-based dance group La La La Human Steps, whom he had originally approached in 1987 with a view to working on the Glass Spider tour. Bowie later described the group as operating "where punk and ballet clash"; their experimental dance works, with titles like Human Sex, New Demons and Businessman In The Process Of Becoming An Angel, combined extreme, almost violently gymnastic choreography with spectacular mixed-media visuals to produce works of chaotic energy. "It's not mime, it's not dance," said Bowie. "It's something else."

David Bowie with La La La Human Steps - Intruders At The Palace - Look Back In Anger 1988
David Bowie with La La La Human Steps - Intruders At The Palace - Look Back In Anger 1988

For the ICA show Bowie and Lock devised a cutting-edge routine with the group's principal dancer Louise LeCavalier. The eight-minute performance of "Look Back In Anger" that emerged was a fascinating moment of transition between Glass Spider and Tin Machine, distilling the best of both without the unpalatable excesses of either. The gutsy, acrobatic dancing was an obvious progression from the previous tour, and Lock's pre-recorded big-screen projections of Bowie and LeCavalier, mimicking the paces they were simultaneously enacting on stage, was a refinement of Glass Spider's "Heroes" sequence. Meanwhile Bowie's plain charcoal suit and the aggressive, metallic guitar sound emanating from his backing group provided a taste of things to come. It was captivating, and to many observers it delivered more in eight minutes than Bowie had achieved in the preceding five years. Chris Roberts raved in Melody Maker that "It wasn't a relative of pop. It was purely fantastical...They slap one another across the face, tickle the chin, hurl, whirl and assault. The flickering video shows Bowie and LeCavalier, monochrome icons freezing with fear and lust..."

For Bowie, the ICA gig was to have far-reaching consequences. Lock's interactive video-projection techniques and LeCavalier's body-thrashing dance style would later form the touchstone of the Sound + Vision tour. More significantly, the ICA gig marked Bowie's first collaboration with Reeves Gabrels, who played guitar alongside Live Aid's Kevin Armstrong and Glass Spider's Erdal Kizilcay. For the first and only time in Bowie's live career, the percussion was provided solely by a drum-machine. The group also recorded a studio version of the revamped "Look Back In Anger", which later appeared as a bonus track on the 1991 reissue of Lodger.

On September 10th 1988, the "Look Back In Anger" performance was reprised as part of an ambitious live global television link-up called Wrap Around The World. Masterminded from PBS's New York studios by the Korean video artist Nam June Paik, the event involved broadcasts from New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Jerusalem and Rio de Janeiro, which were beamed to participating countries across the world including Japan, South Korea, China, the Soviet Union, the US, Germany, Israel and Brazil. Bowie was at the WNET Studios in New York where, in addition to presenting the "Look Back In Anger" performance, he held a conversation via satellite with his sometime movie co-star Ryuichi Sakamoto, who performed live from Tokyo.

The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg

The Complete David Bowie

by Nicholas Pegg

New Edition: Expanded and Updated

"This is the best Bowie reference book one could ever hope for"

Tony Visconti

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