Relive David Bowie’s emotional final solo performance singing ‘Life On Mars?’
With the option of hindsight, it can be very easy to add extra gravitas to a particular performance or single moment. Yet, even without the knowledge of David Bowie’s sad passing, this performance of ‘Life on Mars’ is a deeply emotive and passionate affair capable of inducing goosebumps.
Below we’re bringing you the final performance that David Bowie would ever conduct, the last ever on-stage showing of the Starman. The clip sees him power home a piano-driven rendition of ‘Life On Mars?’ for Fashion Rocks, back in 2005.
The numerous videos of David Bowie performing his songs will naturally always give you a slightly different flavour to walk away with. Some of them make your feet tap and others break your heart. Such was the man’s artistic drive, to never be boring, never be holding back and always be pushing ahead. It meant that each performance is somewhat unique. It’s a part of Bowie’s character which has attracted fans like iron filings to a magnet. Yet this performance is a little different.
The Fashion Rocks events were a charitable combination of top designers and rock icons in a bid to show off their stuff and raise funds and awareness for the charity. Starting in 2003, the event became a mainstay on the events calendar for some time and welcomed a host of glittering stars.
In 2005, Condé Nast held an event on September 8th at New York’s Radio City Music Hall which kicked off New York Fashion Week.
Among the performers that night were Gwen Stefani, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw, Shakira, Nelly, Billy Idol, Arcade Fire and Destiny’s Child (in their last televised appearance as a group). With all the proceeds from the night going to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Bowie was also extended an invitation.
At the time Bowie wasn’t really ‘on the scene’ so to speak. The singer was in his neo-classicist era and was largely picking and choosing projects he felt suited him and his schedule. As we all know, David Bowie wasn’t one for following anybody’s orders but his own. With that in mind, it’s safe to assume that the Thin White Duke would take the stage for Fashion Rocks because he genuinely cared about the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
With the invite in hand, what would Bowie sing? Well, of course, he would deliver a quite-spellbinding rendition of the dystopian love song for Sinatra, ‘Life On Mars?’. It’s a wonderfully simple and restrained performance of what is an otherwise textured and layered track. It lets the emotion of the song, as well as the singer, take centre stage — amidst the glitterati of the fashion world, this choice was a bold one.
The execution of the song, with a stripped back arrangement and the strong figure of Bowie leading the way, was a breathtaking moment and one we now dearly cherish. Later on, in the show, he would perform with Canadian indie rockers for a rendition of their song ‘Reflektor’ and collaboration on Bowie’s song ‘Five Years’.
You can see the moment David Bowie graced the stage on his own to perform one of his songs for the final time below: