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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Bowie thrills crowd with cinema gig
By William Gallagher
BBC News Online entertainment

David Bowie
The show was seen by thousands of fans around the world
Singer David Bowie previewed his latest album Reality with a secret London gig beamed to audiences in cinemas around the world.

The BBC's William Gallagher joined the audience at Birmingham's Odeon New Street cinema.

It did not feel like a concert but it was very much an event: David Bowie's plan to broadcast a gig live to cinemas around the world worked brilliantly.

"Turn it up!" shouted a voice from one side of the Odeon; "Is this Pirates of the Caribbean?" called someone else.
Bowie has done something great here and it was invigorating to be part of the audience

Birmingham has better cinemas than the Odeon on New Street - actually the UK's first-ever Odeon cinema - but it was a famous concert venue in the 1970s.

So there was a muddled sense of history as it vibrated to music again and the audience didn't know whether to clap.

For it was hard to know how to respond to it as you would feel you were there one moment, until tonsil-cam would make you acutely aware of the screen.

The show was filmed extremely well to bring a sense both of being close to the action and remaining part of what seemed a very intimate London stage.

Yet the first half of show could have been pre-recorded and it only felt like a gig when a song would finish and the audience in Birmingham applauded.

Technical troubles

That was an enveloping wave which recreated the atmosphere of a live concert the way the music on screen often didn't, and at that moment this felt more like watching a DVD.

The second half came more alive as Jonathan Ross hosted a question and answer set with Bowie, which suffered enough technical problems to be fun.

It felt truly live then and was helped by the fact that the sound mix that had buried Bowie's vocals in the music was fixed.

Everything was better in the second half except on-screen text messages which were maddeningly cut in two at the bottom of the screen all night.

Bowie has done something great here and it was invigorating to be part of the audience for the event.

Did you go to the Bowie live show, or see it at a cinema? BBC News Online users sent us their reviews.

Bowie is the most beautiful star in the sky. Great show, great idea.
Enrico Sogari, Italy

I saw the gig in Birmingham, and it was absolutely fantastic! There were one or two technical gliches here and there which was probably to be expected with such an enormous idea, but they simply added to the uniquely live feel of this incredible event. The atmosphere was great and you really had the sense of being involved in something huge. Once again, Bowie has devised something entirely groundbreaking, and carried it through brilliantly.
Jaye Johnson, UK

We were at the MK2 cinema theatre in Paris yesterday evening with nearly 2,500 Bowie fans. The broadcasting through the satellite was great, the sound was wonderful. David Bowie has the silhouette of a 25-year-old man, his voice is perfect, and the energy of the band is amazing. Of course a new album has its highs and its lows, as all David Bowie's albums, but what a marvellous artist, he is clever, educated and generous.
Jacques, France

We went to the concert with my wife and daughter, it was a great show. We missed the concert feeling, and the superhits by David... But the idea was great, the almost personal contact with the audience in the Theater. (Multikino, Warsaw)
Paul Komender, Poland

Concert was great. There were no troubles with sound or picture in Helsinki, Finland.
Pekka Timonen, Finland

I went to the cinema in Brussels to watch the event. Bowie played very good music (yes, the new cd 'Reality' sounds very nice), and after the 50 minutes of 'Reality' and the question and answer set, Bowie was to play 3 classics, as voted for by the visitors of bowienet.com. He eventually played 7. Which was nice.
I. C. Wiehner, Belgium

I saw the concert from the Odeon in Brighton and thought it was amazing! Yes, there were problems - Sound, technical and the general unease of watching a concert sitting in a cinema, but overall I found the experience to be very uplifting. Bowie looked great on the big screen and the picture was crystal clear. It was a bargain as well. I probably could have paid about £50 to see an 'actual' concert and still be sat right at the back looking at a video screen. More events like this please!
James Tully, UK

David has yet again broke new ground. I saw the event in Manchester it was a resounding success. I am sure many others will copy this idea in the future, but there is only one Bowie. One minor criticism is that the cinema sound system could not create the 'bass' feel of an actual concert. Whether that was just the Manchester Odeon or similar in the other venues I'm don't know.
David Bradbury, UK

I was privileged to be at Riverside - it was an awesome experience!. David Bowie's presence is electrifying; his voice sounds better than ever and he looks very, very good and younger that his years. It was clear that he is very enthusiastic about his new songs, and has re-discovered some older ones that he has rarely performed. Being in ther audience that night was an experience I'll never forget! The new songs were very well received by the audience...the tracks were as David said :"..built to play live"...and they sounded fantastic in that studio! Personally, I was not aware of sound problems in the first half. It was a forgone conclusion that there would be problems on the night...technology often lets us down....I think the Riverside audience enjoyed the whole thing from beginning to end...right to the last note of the second play of the brilliant new single "New Killer Star", which closed the show. In closing, I'd like to say thank you to David for agreeing to do th! is and thank you to all the lovely fello BowieNetters I met last night...you know who you are!
Ruth Davison, England, UK

Travelled from Hull to Birmingham. thought it was awesome - something special. Bowie and the band looked as tho they were enjoying it, mistakes and all !
pete thompson, england

Bowie was great, the band sounded great, the new album sounded great, what Jonathan Ross was wearing was certainly not great.
Matt Oakes, England

Went to the Leicester Square viewing and thoroughly enjoyed it - especially once the sound problems and muffled vocals had been sorted. It was slightly surreal to be watching a live event on screen, but it felt more live than recorded as it went on and there was spontaneous applause which blended with the Riverside audience applause, heightening the surreal feeling of being there yet not being there. The whole marvellous experience was only marred by the 50-year old drunken buffoon sitting next to us, with long, straggly grey hair and the stinkiest feet this side of Cardboard City who insisted on howling along like a tortured cat to every song he thought he know. Hang your head in shame - you know who you are.
Nicola Brown, UK

I was at the Birmingham Odeon and it was wonderful. What an album, what a band, and what a man. Bowie is God for all us Heathens!
Martin Kenny, UK

I first saw David at the infamous Earls Court gig in 1973 and have been lucky enough to have seen him many many times since then and he is surely the only artist from that era who is still truly relevant today and not merely trading on past glories. I was also fortunate to be at the Riverside very close to the stage and the one question JR should have asked him is how does he at 56 manage to look so incredible! p.s. Gig was superb and his band just gets better and better.
Roy Sutton, England

The gig was amazing from start to finish, and the audio problems some cinemas reported with Davids voice being drowned out in the mix didn't happen everywhere, and certainly didn't happen in Ireland. IT WAS AMAZING! Bowie still rocks and is still leading the way.
David Fleming, Ireland

Was this broadcast to any cinemas in the USA? Shame if it was as I wasn't aware of this gig!
Antje Stobbe, USA

Dearest Antje, you'll still have the chance to see this event in american cinemas next week, I believe... So look out for tickets! The cinema event in Belgium went allright. Too bad we had to miss the first three warm-up songs...
merlijn marsman, belgium

I saw the show at Draken in Stockholm, it was really great. The doors opened 2 hours before the concert and a DJ played Bowie related music. The show was awesome! The performance was great, the new songs was great. There was sound problems during the Q&A section but who really cares about that.
Lars Björck, Sweden

At the little cosy empire cinema in central Copenhagen I arrived with my sister, her boyfriend and two other friends. We were all looking foward to seeing him, as well as being a bit more up close and personal on october 7.th when Bowie is starting his world tour in Denmark. The new album sounded great, and we were almost frantic when the Q&A part came to "Kopenhagen", as Jonathan Ross put it, great hosting by the way. The danish questions was a bit "huh?", but the whole session was such a laugh and such a great feeling of intimacy, all though we were thousands of miles away, that it didn`t matter. The band was great, especially Gail Ann Dorsey, who I have a huge crush on. She always fills in her place on stage. Musically and personally. Magisk!
Jesper Olsen, Denmark

I saw the concert in a cinema in Paddington, Sydney last night and it was great to be part of a unique and ground-breaking event. The performance was sensational and we are all excited about the new album. For those of us on the other side of the world, the gig was not transmitted live, but replayed about 12 hrs later, cutting to a live q&a session with Bowie for the Australian and Asian time zone. Hence there was a strange atmosphere created in the cinema - it was hard to know how to react to a performance that was presented as being "live" in the full knowlege that it was more akin to watching a DVD at home (abeit on one massive screen!). On reflection, that disjunction between the authenitc performance and the veneer of a cinema screen is interesting in itself. I thought it was an apt launch for an album titled "Reality" - a characteristically pioneering Bowie event.
Josephine, Australia

I saw it in Sydney and the sound was terrible no surround sound at all and the so called live interview the sound and pictures wasnt even synchronised. As for the songs. The news one entirely forgettable and for the 3 classic ones - I only knew one. I was like watching an episode of the old grey whitsle test. Boo sucks I was conned.
joe arkley, australia

Saw the 'gig' in Edinburgh and the sound was great apart from the Q&A gliches. Some of the new songs were quite heavy and I look forward to seeing these on the tour. "Hallo Spaceboy" was my #1 voting choice so it was great to hear that first after the Q&A. It was definitely worth going to see as it was different from the norm and David's vocals are still amazing. My fave highlights were "Reality", "Hallo Spaceboy", "Hang onto yourself" and "Modern Love".
Steve Scott, Scotland

Missed out on Riverside tickets,Manchester Odeon a real consolation.A new Cinematic and Music experience.Once again a David Bowie first.
Alex Sankey, England

The sound mix in my cinema was terrible - and it didn't help that most of the new songs from Bowie's new Reality album sound like a bad cross between 80s nadir Never Let Me Down and Tin Machine. I can't believe Hallo Spaceboy could have been voted for over classics like life On Mars or Heroes. BowieNetters are obviously brainwashed into believing his most recent stuff is his best! Still, the shambolic Q&A was fun. It's interesting that Bowie thinks there's never been a good Bond theme, but as good as admitted he chickened out singing one himself. Better have a change of heart, Dave - 'doing a Bond' is a sure-fire way to get a big hit single, something that's evaded you for a very long time.
David Roberts, UK

I was in Lille, it was fantastic! It missed a bit the atmosphere of a real gig but would you applaud a screen? Image was perfect, sound was quite good (although i agree with David Bradbury comment that loud bass sound was missing). And it was very funny. David in real great shape! Did it happen ? it DID happen! thanks!
Florence Gadeyne, France

I was actually one of the lucky ones to be able to be at the actual gig at the Riverside Studio. All I can say was that it was a blast! Bowie was simply fantastic!
Mami Hughes, England

David pioneers again! We did not get to share the concert as live but the atmosphere was intimate and electric and David joined us live for questions - can't wait for the tour - God speed Down Under!
Melanie Kirkbride, Sydney, Australia

I was in Rome, in the UCI-CINEMAS MARCONI, with other italian Bowiefans, from the on-line-fanclub "velvetgoldmine"...all together, we witnessed this great show. Bowie is always a Great artist and an excellent performer. His interpretation of Pablo Picasso was exciting, the new tracks from reality are great. Most of all the astonishing cool-jazz-oriented Bring Me the Disco King. Long Live Bowie!
Walter Bianco, Italy

It was a brave move to premier the whole of Reality given the probable expectations of the fans of a few more hits in the set. Maybe doing just highlights of the new work would have been a popular move but thankfully David Bowie left that kind of attitude back in the 80s. Never Grow Old !!
Scott Hamilton, Scotland

Saw the show in Amsterdam. It was a great experience. The new album sounded great. Bowie still going strong!!!!!!!!!!!
Bob Soulje, The Netherlands

I was lucky enough to be there in Hammersmith- a couple of metres from Bowie. It was amazing to be so close. When your favourite artist (someone whose music most of us have grown up with) is singing and making eye contact with you it's quite awesome. The new album sounds super- especially Bring Me The Disco King which seemed to go down the best. There were a few famous people in the audience,some rubbing shoulders with us. The couple of famous names I spoke to were utterly charming- chuffed to be there as fans also. It was the friendliest concert I've been to with a truly diverse bunch of people in the crowd all happy to chat to each other in the line or inside over a pint of beer. Still can't quite believe I was there- hats off to fellow Bowie fans.
Paul Dean, England

I was at the Odeon in Manchester and all I can say is......WOW!!!!! What a night!!!!! David was amazing!! Loved the Reality tracks, they sound brilliant performed live. I still felt like I was a part of the gig even though I wasn't at Riverside. Thank you for a wonderful night David!
Helen Berrington, Liverpool, UK

It will be on september 15... When it was 8:00 pm in London, it was 2:00 in eastern USA /Canada and 11:00 AM in Western USA/ Canada. Not too many people can skip work / school
Stephane Bedard, Canada

I was at Riverside too, lucky girl that I am! I was even fortunate enough to be on the second row, close enough to see that man's beautiful blue eyes. It was an overwhelming experience, the new album sounds so good and Hall Spaceboy nearly tore the roof off! It was a bit scary since there were no barriers at all so if anyone surged forward we'd have all fallen over into the cameras! If you don't have a ticket for his tour find a way to get one. A wonderful, memorable evening filled with passion, camraderie and the greatest performer in the world. Welcome to Reality! Liz, London
Liz, UK

I was at the Riverside show, and it was a wonderful treat for all of us there. Didn't really notice any sound problems, apart from a bit of fuzziness early on, but certainly nothing major. The Q&A was, predictably, a mess. Surely no-one expected the IT to work. IT never works when it hast to! Ask my company's IT dept (or, better still, don't). But it was very funny, anyway. Roll on November...
braveapollo, UK

Back here in Amsterdam in one of the oldest gig venues, the Milky Way, the atmosphere was great last night. The sound was perfect. A pity was the question asked to David: what is his favorite James Bond song? Bowie responded that he didn't like the past 20 James Bond movies at all. What's the reason for asking this? A lot of people felt ashamed for the dutch contribution, and we were wondering who selected the questions asked. It couldn't have been Bowie himself, and what's the reason of thinking seriously about possible questions if this is the result. Anyway, enough reasons for looking forward tot the coming tour.
philippe boekstal, netherlands

At Brighton - utterly wonderful! My Paraguayan wife is now a committed fan and our (not quite born) baby was really kicking in her tummy!!! Nice one David!!!
Richard Anderson, UK

Well William, I did think it was the "Pirates of the Caribbean", but enjoyed it all the same once the second half kicked in. A truly bizarre experience, I saw Iggy Pop at the Odeon in 87 and left covered in bruises, this time I left covered in popcorn, how times have changed
Neill Milton, Birmingham, UK

I was at the screening in London and David Bowie was awesome, his vocals were amazing and his star quality is so huge that even though he was on the other side of London and in a different building it felt as if Bowie was really playing life in the Odeon in London. I'm also surpised to hear of technical problems because I wasn't awear of any and the event appeared faultless. It's also amazing how youthful Bowie still looks at 56 yrs old, he makes 36 yr olds look old and for all those Robbie Williams fans who think Robbie is the UK's most important pop star DREAM ON because Bowie been the UK's greatest pop star for over 30 yrs and always will be. I'm still on a high from watching Bowie last night.
Ben Scarr, UK

I saw the gig from the Odeon West End and it totally kicked ass! Apart from the techinical troubles which were expected with the scale of the idea. I felt privileged to be part of the live event which was a first, and am looking forward to seein Bowie in november. The new album is sounding great and I will be buying it next week!
Laura Pullarp, England

I was utterly disgusted that this show was not filmed to the Odeon Beckenham, considering it is was David Bowie's home town
Kitty, England

I saw the show from Lille - Kinepolis Great Show !! Great performer !! Great Album !!
Marc , France

I saw the show at the Birmingham Odeon. Wow! Loved David Bowie all my life and last night was no disappointment. The new album sounded great, he was humourous during the Q & A and he played some classics. Bargain! and looked to die for (not bad for nearly 60!)
Tina Vickers, England

I just came back from the David Bowie live telecast at Cineleisure cinema in Singapore. David Bowie is in his most sexiest outfit and looks 30 years younger. I felt like in the real concert! By the way, where can I get his T-Shirt? All be it despite the technical glitches, Bowie is no less fantasic!
Lai Pooi Yin, Singapore

Reality to me seems even more "instant" than Heathen and augurs well for the forthcoming tour. Edinburgh audience seemed mostly enthusiastic although some were obviously disappointed that the older classics weren't wheeled out. That of course was not the point of the evening and David did say in the Q&A section that the tour play list will not disappoint in that regard. If they are played with the gusto shown last night then more than 30 years on from Ziggy we will be treated to some of Bowie's best live work ever. The Stones should pop along and see how it's really done!!
michael maloco, Scotland UK

Can't wait for the US dates to be announced. DB, why are you teasing us so and not letting us know?! Also can't wait for my Reality CD to be delivered and to hear the songs live soon. Us Yanks are jealous of those who saw the show last night either live or at the cinema. Sounds like a good time for all. Take care.
Brian, USA

I was in Paris, amazing nearly a whole multiplex cinema just for db! It being such a big deal for hard-core fans, it felt like being part of a world wide community. It reminded me of Eurovision in the old days when links with other countries were a reason to watch on their own. It had the same exitement of foreign voices you're worried you won't be able to understand... Db is in fantastic form. And the band is just brilliant. The idea is so good, you wonder why no-one has thought of it before. Dave, you rock!
Shona Hammonds, France

I was one of the lucky few who saw the event live at Riverside. It was great. Bowie looked amazing, better than I've seen him look for a few years, and the outfit was great. Shame they didn't have time to finish the coat before the gig! I can't say the songs on the new album are that great, with the exception of 'Bring Me the Disco King', and the cinema audiences missed the warm up song, Fantasic Voyage - unlucky for them. The Q&A session was a bit silly as it didn't work very well, but it provided some amusement. The finale of Hallo Spaceboy, Cactus, Hang onto Yourself and New Killer Star went down a treat. The arena shows are going to be a bit of a let down after this.
Crusty, Rusty and Dusty, UK

I was also lucky enough to be at Riverside (hi Ruth!) and lucky enough to be right at the front. I loved the new album, such a great way to be introduced to it. The band sounded fantastic, as did Bowie, I'm just sorry that there were technical hitches in the cinemas so not everyone could hear just how great it was.
Shirley , England

Band sounded brilliant... Bowie looked amazing! Whatever he's on, I want some! There was cheering and whistling at the end of the songs in Dublin, not just polite applause, but it was nowhere near the excitement of actually being at a concert. The Q&A (complete with dodgy sound) was funny and interesting. The text messages during the songs were hillarious ("you're much better than the Sugababes"). All in all a great night out. Can't wait for the gigs in November!
Caroline O'Connell, Ireland

Saw the gig at Odeon West End in Leicester Square, London. Our local "celebrity" host was a bit irritating, especially as he carried on talking when the gig had already started(!) but Bowie looked and sounded superb - hard to believe he's pushing 60. And the band was fantastic. Some great ad-libs too - he's a pretty funny guy (funnier than Mr Ross or whatsisname from Virgin Radio anyway...).
Chris Winchester, England, UK

I was also lucky enough to be in the Birmingham Odeon for the event. While I agree the first half seemed more like watching a DVD, in the second half the band and Bowie truly came alive. The technical quality was excellent, and I defy anyone not to appreciate the greatness of David Bowie and his truly incredible accompanying band!!
Alper Dervish, England

I attended the Leicester Square screening and was lucky enough to have a Row A ticket. The show was introduced by some baseball cap wearing DJ that I had never heard of. He was still telling us what a great show we were in for as Bowie appeared on the screen behind him. The whole audience politely asked him to sling his hook and off he went. The start of the show proper was marred by the low sound level - was this the much heralded 5.1 surround sound being beyond the capabilities of the Odeon staff? Fortunately not as after some shouting from the audience the sound level was back to it's normal fantastic quality. (CDs remixed to 5.1 for home use may be pretty dreadful but the technology in use at the Odeon was amazing). We were treated to a run through of the whole of "Reality" - released on 15th - and then a twenty minute Q&A session, (which was actually quite dull after the first two or three questions) and then Hallo Spaceboy, Fantastic Voyage, Hang Onto Yourself, Modern Love, Cactus and the first track from Reality again. Wow! Two hours had flown by. Everybody seemed pleased and to be eagerly awaiting both the album and tour. DB himself seemed really relaxed and to be having a great time. He said that he and the band had about fifty songs prepared for the tour. No doubt The Bewley Brothers will be making a welcome return after last years Hammersmith show and I understand Win is scheduled to make it's first live appearance for many years. Expectations are high and if last night is anything to go by they will be fully met.
Kevin Allen, UK

I was at the Rivereside recording of this ground-breaking event. Highight was a rousing rendition of 'Hang On To Yourself' and the Q and A session with Jonathan Ross was entertaining, with the best question being 'Which one of your albums would you delete' The audience present answered in unison, 'Never Let me Down' a truly poor album form the 80's. The new album, 'Reality' sounded wonderful live and it is released in the UK on the 15th Sept.
Mike, UK

This really was a special event, and very much enjoyed - what a brilliant idea, beaming a live concert across the globe. Wow. William - you were right about the sound, Bowie's vocals were buried in the first half of the gig, which is a shame because when you are new to the music you want to hear the words. Never mind, the mix was cleaned up for the second half. My heart sank when that sycophantic Ross bloke stepped out - but you know, he wasn't that bad! He looked like he'd borrowed Dave's stylist. Shame about the phone problems, but hey, this is a first so we're allowed trip ups like this. The additional songs were pretty wonderful, too, with 'hang onto yourself' and an amazing 'fantastic voyage' two big surprise tracks. I gave in to the urge and vigorously clapped after each track anyway. Then.... as suddenly as it began it was over. We all formed an orderly queue and we were back out in the Autumnal Mancunian air. Nice clean toilets, comfy seats, straight to a good bar.... was this really a concert?!
Baz, UK

I was at the Riverside last night and it was probably the best gig that I've ever seen. The first time that I saw Bowie was in 1973, and the first live song was Hang on To Yourself, so it was nice that he included it in the set last night. Having seen him so many times over the years it's refreshing to be presented with something totally new, it was one of the most original sets since he did the drum and bass sets a few years back. It must be difficult to remain on the cutting edge but Bowie never ceases to be there....and he's keeping the spirit of Larry Grayson alive!
Keith Woodhouse, UK

I was at the Edinburgh Odeon screening and I estimate 400 other Bowie'ites thouroughly enjoyed the 2 hour extraveganza, the new album sounded brilliant and the concept was groundbreaking and a must do for artists who's concert tickets sell out in less than an hour and fans miss out on the chance to be at the real thing. More Please David !!
John Logan, Scotland

Leicester Square Odeon great visuals & sound quality genuinely sounded like a live concert. Felt a bit odd that the live thing was just happening down the road though! Again I have witnessed another historic moment of broadcasting with Bowie - Go On Son.
Dazza, Uk

I was at the Odeon in Leicester Square, London, and thoroughly enjoyed the show. But there was one stange moment during the Q&A session when David seemed to be so very sad. He said that the more he thought about it he preferred the 20th century to the 21st...the whole audience went very quiet and an air of melancholy descended on us all. Just for one sad moment. Davod lives in New York and has a very young daughter - perhaps it is the uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring that haunts him. But for a man who once seemed to be racing headlong into the future faster than anyone else it was a remarkably forlorn admission. Cheer up, Dave! See you at Wembley in November.
Jez, UK

We saw it here in Bergen, Norway. The sound in teh first half was really bad, but improved at the end. The best part of the show was Jonathan Ross, who is unknown here, but soon made some new fans! The way he and Bowie chatted in the middle of the show, really made us feel like we were there!
Matt Duke, Norway

I was lucky enough to be at Riverside - which felt more like an intimate club gig than such a world (ok European for now) wide affair. Thanks David, can't wait to see what you're up to next.
Tina Lindemann, UK

I was watching in Glasgow and thought the gig was brilliant. The sound was excellent, Bowie looked fantastic and the question and answer session with Jonathan Ross was hilarious! Minor drawbacks were a very uncomfortable old style cinema seat, the distracting text messages at the bottom of the screen and the feeling at the start that I was watching a video on a very large screen. This soon disappeared though. It was funny to see that the audience didn't know whether to clap or not. And it was nice to hear some of Bowie's lesser known works at the end of the show. A real bonus!
Anne Fitzsimons, Scotland

I was at the Studios - close enough to see the famous pupils. What really impressed, apart from the fabulously rocking sound, was the lack of artifice. It really felt like a band playing some songs in a club, albeit a world-class one. One of the studio treats was watching the warm up, when they seemed to decide songs on the spot. We got 'A New Career In A New Town', the intro to an enthusiastic 'Song 2' and a few bars of Link Wray's 'Rumble', which David reckoned none of us would know. After what was clearly the "set", again they seemed to choose songs on the spot, which added to pleasure. He clearly enjoys the band and they obviously like playing.
Jonh Ingham, UK

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