David Bowie Roker Park Glass Spider Tour 23 June 1987

David Bowie Roker Park Glass Spider Tour 23 June 1987
Support Acts: Big Country
“Good evening Newcastle”, said David Bowie as he took the stage at this gig. Big mistake for a gig in Sunderland; rivalry between the two towns run deep, particularly in the context of football, and saying this in Roker Park, the home of Sunderland football, was not a good idea. It was to be an omen for the rest of the gig, which wasn’t one of Bowie’s best. In theory, this should have been a great gig. Bowie has a great band, with Peter Frampton coming in on guitar. He had promised that this tour would see a return to theatricals of the scale of the US Diamond Dogs tour. There was great anticipation for the gigs, which ultimately played to 3m people, exceeding the Serious Moonlight tour.
The day was wet, as I recall, and Big Country went down a storm, perhaps better than Bowie. Bowie’s setlist focussed on his more recent catalogue, and particularly his latest lp Never Let Me Down, ignoring the Ziggy era. The stage set was Ok, but somewhat silly, and personally I didn’t think it was as impressive as promised. At one point Bowie came down from the stage on a swing, and the spider just looked strange (but was it a forerunner of the recent U2 stage set up?). The programme for the gig (shown left) was obviously produced for the word tour, with lots of glossy photos of David, and nothing about the support acts; there was also an edition of the Sunderland Echo produced specially for the event (see below).
Setlist: Up the Hill Backwards; Glass Spider; Day-In Day-Out; Bang Bang; Absolute Beginners; Loving the Alien; China Girl; Fashion; Scary Monsters; All the Madmen; Never Let Me Down; Big Brother; ’87 and Cry; Heroes; Time Will Crawl; Beat Of Your Drum; Sons of the Silent Age; Dancing With the Big Boys; Zeroes; Let’s Dance; Fame; Encore: Blue Jean; Modern Love. Towards the end of the gig Bowie said: “I’m glad the rain has kept off”. It then poured down during the encore. Not a good day; I was slowly losing faith in Bowie, and I was to suffer further disappointment at a Tin Machine gig a few years later (see my blog of a few days ago). Tomorrow I’ll report on The Reality tour which I caught in Dublin in 2003, and which restored my faith in Bowie.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Brian on February 15, 2012 at 12:13 am

    The Screaming Blue Messiahs were also guests and I don’t recall any rain at all on the day.


  2. Posted by ian on May 12, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    as soon as Bowie had said to the audience you didn’t let it rain the heavens opened and in modern love i know when to go out i know when to stay in keep dry lol


  3. Posted by ian on May 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    this was my first time i saw bowie all i can say is bowie is well ahead of his time it was fantastic a lot of other singers followed in the same theme like madonna and u2


  4. Posted by daz on January 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    yeah wet day ….been a newcastle utd fan it was a beauty when he said hello newcastle….big country stole the show outstanding bowie total let down cheers daz king blackhall colliery


  5. I recall Bowie actually being late for the gig, I think it was nearly an hour late and yes it rained, I also really enjoyed Big Country.


  6. Posted by Miles on April 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    It was ludicrously wet at the end. We had to wait over an hour for a bus back to the toon, and it was torrential at that point. I think I found the rain marginally more entertaining than his set that day though. Wish I’d seen the Serious Moonlight tour instead.


  7. Posted by Carl Reynolds on June 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    great memories…thank you for posting. I’d been to the Wembley show on the previous Saturday but after only getting a halfway line view decided to go to Sunderland as well where I got a much better view near the front. Big Country were great at both gigs. Apparently Bowie was upset with the curfew as the lighting rigs only worked to maximum effect in the dark and even with a slighly late start most of this gig was in daylight. He flew in late, to Newcastle airport, hence the introduction slip-up, which most near me found quite funny. This was the same set list as Wembley, though he dropped “Time” from the encore at Sunderland because the wind got up, making standing on top of the rig even more precarious, and the wind was just a sign of the rain to come which lashed down at the close. The setlist was changed shortly after to drop the unpopular “Never let me down” tracks and to add some standards like Rebel Rebel.and Jean Genie. Having seen Serious Moonlight at Milton Keynes this new post-liveaid show did not have the desired impact, too much going on upon the stage at once, and new songs were weak. However, the fantastic video/dvd of the Sydney Austrailia shows (indoors with full lighting) later in the tour shows the potential. Ironically, I saw another overblown show in Sunderland recently, with absailing, cranes, strange creatures, obscure dancers, songs as production numbers, diamond screens, and a full stage that was difficult to follow….Take That. Bowie’s ideas and innovation were ahead of their time, and now years later there is better technology to execute them.


  8. Posted by Gavin on February 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I lived five minutes walk from Roker Park and being a massive Peter Frampton fan went to this gig to see him. The weather was cloudy and armed with some fruit and snacks I stood fairly close to the front, pretty much bang in the middle. If I recall about 4PM the truly dreadful Screaming Blue Messiahs came on. I remember how poor they went down – at the end of each song there was very little cheering – around me it was more of a groan! Then on came Big Country which were great. On one song they had to stop as there was some major unwanted droning sound. Stuart Adamson said something like “now that’s what you call a technical malfunction!” It was broad daylight when Bowie dressed in a green boiler suit climbed up the back of the set pretending to be one of the lighting crew. We were all cheering and jeering and he showed no emotion as he attempted to maintain his anonymity – to no avail – his hairstyle gave him away for starters!

    As for the concert, I knew hardly any of the songs but I still enjoyed it. Frampton had major technical problems. Time after time his guitar was swapped by his tech – only for it to have issues. In fact, when Bowie introduced him he said “And, on half a guitar this evening – Peter Framton). He got the loudest cheer of all the band introductions.

    Thanks to it being overcast and the weather closing in the last few songs did show off the tremendous set with its huge spide atop the stage. Living so close by I had seen it taking shape as it towered over the Roker End of the ground. At the end it did pour with rain, but not earlier when there was definitely none.


  9. Posted by hero on June 26, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    This was my first gig as a naive teen. In my mind as a now 40-something, it was the best gig ever. Reality is, your account sums up the actual event as not one of Bowie’s best but his genius lives on.


  10. Posted by Michelle spokes on November 10, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    I agree with you it wasn’t a very good gig my mate fainted so never saw her till it was finished but got our pics in the paper wrong names tho lol The lead singer off Big Country held my hand as we wete right at the front good times tho


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