A few weeks back, the good folk at the BBC loaded onto their own dedicated digital channel something around 150 performances from bygone years at Glastonbury as a way of filling some space in the absence of the festival taking place in 2020.  A number of the headline performances stayed up for 30 more days which is why myself and Rachel were able to sit down a few days later and finally watch the David Bowie set from 2000.

Social media went absolutely crazy at the time the BBC was showing it ‘as live’; it was the first time the entire show had been seen as the agreement back in 2000 with Bowie was that only the opening segments and part of the encore could go out over the airwaves.  It’s regarded by many as the best ever Glastonbury headlining show and among one of Bowie’s greatest performances, with the setlist consisting of many of his best-known and best-loved songs, as well as a smattering of new tunes (new in 2000 that is).

But here’s the thing…..neither of us at Villain Towers were that blown away by it.

Rachel is, of course, spoiled by the fact that at the age of 14 she was present at the Green’s Playhouse (later the Apollo) in Glasgow in 1973 when Ziggy Stardust was being toured, and there’s nothing that can beat that.  She thought that the songs from that era, and indeed the rest of the 70s, as seen and heard at Glastonbury felt and looked as if they were being performed by a Bowie impersonator backed by a group of musicians who wouldn’t have been out of place at a swanky Las Vegas hotel.  And I’m not disagreeing.

She had been really looking forward to the show having read all the fawning comments across social media and within the mainstream media reviews, especially as so many had focussed on the fact the songs had come from the entire canon.  When the band left the stage after the final encore, she turned to me and asked ‘Is that it?’  The closing two songs of Let’s Dance and I’m Afraid of Americans was not what she was hoping for or expecting.

Glastonbury setlist

1. Wild Is the Wind
2. China Girl
3. Changes
4. Stay
5. Life on Mars?
6. Absolute Beginners
7. Ashes to Ashes
8. Rebel Rebel
9. Little Wonder
10. Golden Years
11. Fame
12. All the Young Dudes
13. The Man Who Sold the World
14. Station to Station
15. Starman
16. Hallo Spaceboy
17. Under Pressure
18. Ziggy Stardust
19. “Heroes”
20. Let’s Dance
21. I’m Afraid of Americans

It led to us to recall the time we had seen Bowie in each other’s company, back in 1990 at the appalling Ingliston Showgrounds in Edinburgh – a venue that is just about the worst imaginable in terms of sound and yet managed to provide something really special on this occasion. The setlist from that night was the sort of thing that Rachel had believed she would now be watching from the comfort of the living room:-

1. Space Oddity
2. Changes
3. TVC15
4. Rebel Rebel
5. Golden Years
6. Be My Wife
7. Ashes to Ashes
8. John, I’m Only Dancing
9. Queen Bitch
10. Fashion
11. Life on Mars?
12. Blue Jean
13. Let’s Dance
14. Stay
15. China Girl
16. Ziggy Stardust
17. Sound and Vision
18. Station to Station
19. Alabama Song
20. Young Americans
21. Panic in Detroit
22. Suffragette City
23. Fame
24. “Heroes”
25. The Jean Genie
26. Pretty Pink Rose
27. Modern Love
28. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Looking back, it was something of a perverse ending at Ingliston with Pretty Pink Rose during the encore having folk scratching their heads as it was a duet with guitarist Adrian Belew that had been released as a single about six weeks earlier and very few knew it, followed by a well-known but not exactly highly-loved single. But what a way to rescue things and send the crowd home absolutely buzzing.

I know these things are subjective and the absolutely ideal set would have incorporated songs from both Glastonbury and Ingliston, but overall the vast majority would surely have been from those aired back in 1990 and not 2000.  I’d loved to have heard Wild Is The Wind, The Man Who Sold The World and Starman, but surely the Glasto audience deserved to hear Queen Bitch, Sound and Vision, Suffragette City, The Jean Genie and Rock’n’Roll Suicide– it was the absence of the last three on that list that really irked Rachel!

I asked her the next morning if she had changed her mind about being disappointed with the Glastonbury show. Her reply was that maybe she had overreacted a little but it was a response to feeling she had watched something that had over-promised and under-delivered. She also reiterated that the musicians on stage at Glastonbury had annoyed her – she knew they were incredibly talented and skillful but she couldn’t really classify them as a band – certainly not in comparison to the Ziggy tour or indeed the different and smaller number of musicians who shared the stage at Ingliston.

mp3: David Bowie – Queen Bitch
mp3: David Bowie – Changes
mp3: David Bowie – Rock’n’Roll Suicide



  1. Must admit I felt similar. I think one of the issues is most of the classic live Bowie footage has a front row with Bowie style outfits who obvs love him miming back all the words. TBH for most of the coverage there may as well not have been an audience. Like to see mad Bowie fans like Hammy Odeon 1973 not the Glasto prawn sandwich brigade…

  2. I loved it – agree not as good as the 1990 tour but then that’s one of the best gigs I’ve been to and so unlikely it ever would be . Also could do without little wonder and I’m afraid of Americans but that’s about it . I didn’t mind the band and liked the face that earl slick kept his guitar histrionics under a bit more control . I thought his voice was amazing (jacket less so ) especially when you compare to some of his contemporaries- life on Mars if anything sounded better vocally than the hunky dory version

  3. You got better value on your 1990 gig than we did at Maine Road, Manchester the same year – 19 songs (including 3 in the encore). Mind you, there was the bonus of James supporting.

    Watched the Glastonbury 2000 performance as well. Mrs TGG and I both came to the conclusion that any later Bowie gig would always leave you feeling short-changed as some classic tunes would invariably be missing in order to accommodate newer material. Thought the 2000 show was OK – felt positive from the start as I just love his version of Wild Is The Wind. Would have liked to have heard Sound And Vision and was bemused as to why I’m Afraid… was even included. Could have done without Hallo Spaceboy as well. Certainly preferred to the Bowie performance to the one the Beeb “treated” us to next.

  4. Hi .. what it lacked was any ‘Soul’ though apparently Bowie was a little under the weather. He then went on to record the Bowie at the Beeb set 2 days later which was much better, in my opinion!

  5. I thought that it was a very good performance, loved the version of Under Pressure and absolutely hated the hash of Absolute Beginners, it was awful. Not the best headliner at Glastonbury I would have said that would have been Beyonce or Springsteen but neither of them are dead, so . . .

    I saw Bowie at the Wembley Arena on the Serious Moonlight Tour which I remember had quite a lot of detractors at the time and mixed reviews but for the cynical 14 yr old me wanting to not be impressed by the flashiness of the affair, (very opulent 80s stuff) I was blown away, the consummate performances from everyone on stage and Bowie’s theatrics. As large gigs go for me it has never been topped.

  6. I think it’s unfair to compare Bowie 1990 with Bowie 2000. The decade inbetween saw him reasses his career and return with a completely different approach. There were all sorts of different styles a world away from the so-called “classic” years. It’s only right he played stuff from ‘Outside’ and ‘Earthling’, especially Little Wonder and I’m Afraid Of Americans, two of his best tracks from this period.

    I also feel comparing seeing him actually in the flesh compared to a TV broadcast is harsh. I rarely, if ever, watch concerts on TV or DVD. It’s impossible to capture any sort of atmosphere you’d get actually being there, and all sorts of jiggery pokery will have been done to the sound and visuals so I often feel cheated.

    Also, let’s not forget it was a festival set, not intended for his true fans. I like the way he ended with Americans though. It’s a typical Bowie curveball, not one people would have expected from a greatest hits festival set. Personally, while one or two performances may sound less than spectacular, I’ve always thought it was a very decent set, worthy of headline status. His band at the time was more than competent (I think Gail Anne-Dorsey was essential to the line-up), but I do agree with nevetsjw2 when he lauds the BBC set Bowie played later that week. That was special and his version of Wild Is The Wind that night was breathtaking. But then, it was in a much smaller venue with a comparitively tiny audience of ‘proper’ fans.

  7. I remember at the time Bowie with his long locks was on the front page on the Monday papers. He’d long fallen out of ‘cool’ after a series of albums even the Stones would’ve been embarrassed by. The Glasto show was, in essence, Bowie owning his legacy and reclaiming his crown as one of the immortals with a greatest hits set designed not for die hard fans like us but the masses. I’d say he achieved that mission.

  8. Agree with The Robster that rock concerts on tv can’t compare with the real thing. I’m sure there are great concert films but I can’t think of any. Stop Making Sense was a good one, for example, but I saw that tour and the show was ten times better than the film. Also can’t fault the band–those are some of Bowie’s best collaborators. Gail Ann Dorsey is a bass legend, and Earl Slick went back as far as the Diamond Dogs tour and plays all the leads on StationtoStation. And Rachel would have seen Mike Garson on keyboards on the Ziggy Stardust tour. He connected with Bowie then, recorded on Aladdin Sane and went on to play on more records and performances than any other musician. I’m putting it down to a less than optimal set and the broadcast format.

  9. I went home from Glastonbury that year – had a new baby so had to get back… I saw him on the Glass Spider tour – obviously not his finest moment – and a few years later at Phoenix Festival twice – once a secret set in a barely half full dance tent which was brilliant

    And definitely not the best Glastonbury headliner – Radiohead 1997 and Beyonce for me!

  10. Have recorded it and yet to watch it back so I can’t make a judgement yet but just wanted to say how marvellous it is to know you and Rachel saw him, especially Rachel’s Ziggy gig at the age of 14 – fantastic!

  11. Is it a combination of recorded rather than flesh and “festival” rather than “fans”? There are some highlights on the Glastonbury set which aren’t on the 1990 set and vice versa. It might not be Bowie at his best but I’d take that over many others playing above themselves. Oh, and I can’t agree that he’d released a string of embarrassing albums prior to Glastonbury. I would rate 1:Outside, Hours and even Earthling as infinitely superior to Tonight, Never Let Me Down and even Let’s Dance.

  12. I second that motion. But as a Yank, have never seen this “legendary” Glastonbury performance. Not too troubled by it, though. I saw Bowie thrice. Sound + Vision which was a bit uninvolving, even though I was a big Adrian Belew fan. I liked Outside your more thought I hate Nine Inch Nails and we arrived just as the “switch” happened and we heard “Look Back In Anger” blaring out of the venue. But many good set list choices that day, and seeing Mike Garson and Reeves Gabrels (I was a huge Tin Machine fan who thought Reeves saved his friend’s bacon). Highlights? “Andy Warhol,” “Joe The Lion,” “Breaking Glass,” Nite Flights,” “Teenaged Wildlife.” Third time was the charm as we caught night 2 at the Chili Pepper in Ft. Lauderdale. Bowie’s longest concert ever. 3 1/2 hours of 36 songs in a small club with a thousand other fans going nuts. Close enough to see Bowie 40 feet away obviously enjoying himself!

  13. I was one of the ones going crazy on Twitter as well as Whatsapp messages with my Bowie loving sister and some friends.

    Real “event” TV, great band, a majestic performance and the best back catalogue in recorded music history. What’s not to love ?

    Ps – I was at Ingleston too

  14. Self indulgent piano twankler Garson ruined Glastonbury.
    He was allowed too much freedom for his ego,
    and mixed too loud and obtrusive.

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