Divine Symmetry Revisited

I’ve been listening more to the recent data dump of 1971 Bowie material, and what really strikes me is the live performance from September of that year. David had chosen the Friars Club in Aylesbury, about 50 miles northwest of London, for his first live performance after recording Hunky Dory. The show became fairly legendary, and was bootlegged for many years before finally being officially released on Divine Symmetry.

The surprising thing about it is how uncertain Bowie sounds. At the beginning of the show he is fairly stammering. After introducing “Michael Ronson,” he says, “I don’t do many gigs, and this is one of the few exceptions. So we’re gonna start slowly.” After some hemming and hawing, they launch into “Fill Your Heart,” which is different with just acoustic guitars but quite lovely.

Afterward David addresses the audience:

We didn’t know what kind of songs to do tonight, so we just decided to endeavor to sing the kind of songs that we hope you’ll enjoy. This is what we call “entertainment,” we want to entertain you… entertain you… it’s an old word. We want you to enjoy the songs and we want to make you happy because we want to be happy doing them.

I find this painful to hear. Not only does David sound like George Bush the Elder at his most mealy-mouthed, what he says amounts to a confession of pandering. He continues: