David Bowie’s 1987 ‘Glass Spider’ tour in support of his album Never Let Me Down saw The Thin White Duke conquer stadiums across the globe and was described, at the times, as being ‘the largest touring set ever’.
The tour looks even more remarkable from the lens of fan video taken from his Manchester show which, in its grainy nature, transports you to the late 1980s. The footage displays just how ahead of his time Bowie was with his innovative stage design which not only exemplifies just what a forward-thinking maverick he was but also that he was the complete showman to boot.
Bowie put on an iconic display lasting over two hours, a set which saw him blitz through classics including ‘Heroes’, ‘Fame’ and ‘Modern Love’ but he also treated the ravenous Maine Road crowd to a cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’.
The set for the ‘Glass Spider’ tour was designed to look like a giant spider and was 60 feet high, 64 feet (19.5m) wide and included giant vacuum tube legs that were lit from the inside with a staggering 20,000 colour-changing lights. It was designed by set designer Mark Ravitz who had previously worked with Bowie on his 1974 Diamond Dogs Tour and reportedly astonishingly took 43 trucks to move with an estimated weight of 360 tons.
There were a few issues with the tour due to it being such an extravaganza, especially when the tour reached British shores due to it still being daylight when Bowie made his way on to stage at an earlier time than he would have liked due to strict curfew laws. In a 1990 interview with Smart Magazine, Bowie revealed his fury about this: “The biggest mistake that was made on that tour was opening in the daylight. The whole reason for the entire damn show was lost.”
Each set cost US$10 million to make with Bowie himself investing over $10 million of his own money to help fund the tour. That, on top of paying $1 million a week to maintain a staff of 150 people to build the three sets as the tour moved around the world, sees reports that over the course of the international tour somewhere between two and six million people attended the shows.
Speaking on Dutch TV show Countdown, Bowie likened the set to: “A feeling of a ship, which is the voyage, with the rigging and the climbing and the ropes. And the bottom circular area is like the Circus of Lights, so it really is from birth, and the voyaging through life.”
Check out the full show from Manchester’s Maine Road, below.