Next up on this thread is “Moonage Daydream,” which also happens to be the name of Brett Morgen’s recent Bowie feature-film extravaganza. I finally saw it this weekend; of course I loved it, and of course there are a million things I could nitpick about if I were so inclined. But I’m not, as I realize that Bowie is simply too big a subject to be contained in one movie, even one as long and ambitious as this one. Choices had to be made, and Morgen made them, which is every artist’s prerogative.
He used more footage from the 50th birthday concert than I would have expected, though his sequence for the title song is (quite properly) focused on a Ziggy-era performance featuring Mick Ronson. Back in the day “Moonage Daydream” was a showcase for Ronson as much as Bowie, or maybe even more, with epic guitar solos that gave the singer a chance to catch his breath.
The 1997 version is economical in comparison, with Reeves Gabrels acquitting himself satisfactorily in the limited space he’s given. Dave is in fine voice and looks pretty happy, possibly thinking of the first time he conquered the Earth, all those years ago.
“Daydream” is followed by band intros, a round of “Happy Birthday” led by Gail Ann Dorsey, and a cake presentation. Bowie thanks the audience and tells them, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise I won’t bore you.” Which was mostly true.
But the show isn’t over quite yet. For “All the Young Dudes” DB is joined by Uncle Fest… I mean Billy Corgan, who for some unfathomable reason gets the honor of being the last guest of the evening. He doesn’t ruin it, exactly, but he doesn’t help either. Frankly I’ve always found “AtYD” charming but lightweight, and a little bit goes a long way.
Corgan sticks around for “Jean Genie,” and again is allowed to sing more than is really desirable. To be honest I would put the Genie in the “lesser classics” bucket with the Dudes — it’s catchy enough, but recycled blues riffs are not really Bowie’s métier. I’ve had enough before it’s over, and had that been the end of the show, it would have left a sour taste in my mouth.
Instead the birthday boy decided to bestow one last gift on us undeserving sinners. Appearing alone onstage with an acoustic guitar (though augmented by tapes), he launches into “Space Oddity.” Some say that this performance — which Moonage Daydream makes prominent use of — is the definitive one, and who am I to argue? What more is there to say, really? Behold, ye mortals, and be humbled.