David Bowie is a once in a lifetime performer. He’s an artist who can boast some of the most iconic concerts in history. But one performance of his seminal single, ‘Space Oddity’, stands out above the rest.
The moment came as the final song on one of the most illustrious birthday party sets you would ever see. Bowie enlisted some of the world’s finest rock and roll players to join him in celebrating his 50th birthday at Madison Square Garden—not your ordinary birthday party but after all, if David Bowie was one thing, he was extraordinary.
The full setlist for Bowie’s 50th birthday bash reads like a who’s who of rock royalty. The singer welcomed Frank Black, the Foo Fighters, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Sonic Youth, Billy Corgan and Lou Reed to the stage for a series of impressive performances. Despite that, he would tie up the event with the spotlight firmly trained on him alone.
Bowie had a fractious relationship with his back catalogue of greatest hits. The chameleon of rock always liked to look forward and the idea of rehashing the moments of creative bliss that led to yours and our favourite tunes felt contrived to The Starman. One particular song to stick in his craw was ‘Space Oddity’.
The track was originally written as a bit of gimmick, carefully entwined with (but not inspired by) the Moon Landing. It launched Bowie’s career and saw the star win an Ivor Novello award, yet it was always a bit of an albatross around Bowie’s neck. In the early nineties along with the rest of the hits, the song was cast into storage as Bowie explored new avenues of artistry.
In 1997, with a special occasion of his 50th birthday ahead, the singer decided that the time was right to give the old hits another glorious run-out. In homage to the songs that had given him the opportunity to celebrate his birthday at such an illustrious venue, Bowie performed some of his most iconic numbers.
After the aforementioned roll call of rock and roll greats went by, Bowie stripped away the fuss and as the stage went dark, a light appeared on the Starman and his guitar. He took the centre of the stage with an otherworldly presence and delivered perhaps the definitive performance of his most legendary track.
Watch it all go down and find the full video, below.
The full setlist with times can be found below:
0:00:48 – ‘Little Wonder’
———— ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’
0:04:48 – ‘Scary Monsters’ (And Super Creeps) (with Frank Black)
0:10:11 – ‘Fashion’ (with Frank Black)
0:13:53 – ‘Telling Lies’
0:19:20 – ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ (with Foo Fighters)
0:24:46 – ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ (with Dave Grohl)
———— ‘The Man Who Sold the World’
0:31:19 – ‘The Last Thing You Should Do’ (with Robert Smith)
0:36:53 – ‘Quicksand’ (with Robert Smith)
0:41:49 – ‘Battle for Britain’ (The Letter)
———— ‘The Voyeur of Utter Destruction’ (As Beauty)
0:46:27 – ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’ (with Sonic Youth)
0:52:14 – ‘Looking for Satellites’
———— ‘Under Pressure’ (Queen cover)
0:58:03 – ‘Queen Bitch’ (with Lou Reed)
———— ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Lou Reed)
———— ‘Dirty Blvd.’ (Lou Reed cover) (with Lou Reed)
1:01:40 – ‘White Light/White Heat’ (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Lou Reed)
1:05:51 – ‘Moonage Daydream’ (With band introductions)
1:11:35 – ‘Happy Birthday’ (Mildred J. Hill cover) (Performed by Gail Ann Dorsey)
1:13:04 – ‘All the Young Dudes’ (with Billy Corgan)
1:16:40 – ‘The Jean Genie’ (with Billy Corgan)
1:21:43 – ‘Space Oddity’