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TV REVIEW : 'Glass Spider': A Glitzy Special From David Bowie and Friends

June 03, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

David Bowie opens his concert special "David Bowie: Glass Spider Tour" (tonight at 9 on ABC Channels 7, 3, 10, 42) with a rendition of his 1975 hit single "Fame." For all intents and purposes, though, he might as well be singing the 1980 Irene Cara hit theme song "Fame."

For it's the "Fame" movie and TV series you think of when you see Bowie surrounded on stage by all those exuberant dancers, looking like they should be out on the streets of New York, joyously trotting across the tops of taxis.

Las Vegas comes to mind, too. This glitzy special, like the massive "Glass Spider" stadium tour last year whence it sprang, is not one of the rock legend's prouder moments. On the more uptempo numbers, he has that jogging-in-place look down a little too pat. It befits Tom Jones more than someone of Bowie's stature.

In only one mesmerizing scene does the choreography--conceived by Bowie along with rock/dance veteran Toni Basil--approach invention: One of the dancers, her feet grounded in what looks like modified pairs of skis and boots, leans spookily forward and backward as Bowie extends and withdraws his arms like a puppetmaster or snake charmer.

In songs such as "Modern Love," however, the dancing is strictly to the unheard tune of "We're gonna live forever." (At least he sings the tune's original words and doesn't break into a soda-pop pitch.)

Not everything is played so much by the show-biz book here; a couple of his less-remembered '70s numbers provide slightly more daring content, and the dancers and special effects disappear on a few numbers, like in a rendition of Lou Reed's "White Light / White Heat" (which has guest guitarist Charlie Sexton joining Bowie for a battle of the cheekbones).

These simpler moments are welcome, considering how surprisingly lame and tame the attempts at theatricality from this former king of rock theater are.

Certainly the "Glass Spider" concept comes off as nothing more than an excuse for a tour name and stage design--and what a silly stage it is.

The monstrosity surrounding Bowie and band looks less like a giant insect than like the giant UFO from ELO's late-'70s stadium tour, with flashing strings of Vegas lights hanging down in the guise of spider legs. Maybe that's the concept for Bowie's next movie: "The Tropicana Tarantula!"

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