Sound+Vision Tour

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Sound+Vision Tour
Tour by David Bowie
File:Sound+Vision Tour 1990.jpg
A Sound+Vision Tour Promotional Image
David Bowie in silhouette
Associated album Sound+Vision
Start date 4 March 1990
End date 29 September 1990
Legs 7
Number of shows 7 in North America
23 in Europe
7 in North America
2 in Asia
40 in North America
24 in Europe
6 in South America
108 Total
David Bowie concert chronology
Tin Machine tour chronology
Tin Machine Tour
It's My Life Tour

David Bowie's 1990 Sound+Vision Tour was billed as a greatest hits tour in which Bowie would retire his back catalogue of hit songs from live performance. The tour opened at the Colisée de Québec in Quebec City, Canada on 4 March 1990 before reaching its conclusion at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 29 September 1990, spanning five continents in seven months. The concert tour surpassed Bowie's previous Serious Moonlight (1983) and Glass Spider (1987) tours' statistics by visiting 27 countries with 108 performances.

Édouard Lock of La La La Human Steps co-conceived and was artistic director for this tour.

Tour history

Bowie's previous Glass Spider Tour and two most recent albums (Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987)) had all been critically dismissed, and Bowie was looking for a way to rejuvenate himself artistically.[1] To this end, Bowie wanted to avoid having to play his old hits live forever, and used the release of the Sound + Vision box set as the impetus for a tour, despite having no new material recorded.[2][3][4]

It was stated that Bowie would never perform these greatest hits on tour again.[5][6][7][8] Bowie said "knowing I won't ever have those songs to rely on again spurs me to keep doing new things, which is good for an artist."[9]

Bowie looked forward to retiring his old hits, stating:

It's time to put about 30 or 40 songs to bed and it's my intention that this will be the last time I'll ever do those songs completely, because if I want to make a break from what I've done up until now, I've got to make it concise and not have it as a habit to drop back into. It's so easy to kind of keep going on and saying, well, you can rely on those songs, you can rely on that to have a career or something, and I'm not sure I want that.[3]

— March 1990

He would state in another contemporary interview that "I want to finish off that old phase and start again. By the time I'm in my later forties, I will have built up a whole new repertoire."[4]

It has been noted that Bowie is "famous" for claiming retirement in the past, so many critics and observers did not fully believe Bowie when he said he would not play these songs again.[3][5][9][10][11]

Bowie spent the early few months of 1990 preparing for the tour in a rehearsal hall on Manhattan's west side.[3]

Song selection

David Bowie performing in Chile, 27 September 1990

It was announced that the set-list for any given performance of the tour would be partially determined by the most popular titles logged in a telephone poll[5] by calling the number 1-900-2-BOWIE-90.[2] Mail-in ballots were made available to vote by in territories where telephone technology was not available.[8]

Bowie did in fact build the tour's setlist from calls to the phone number from all over the world, saying "What I ended up doing was taking about seven or eight [songs] from [the calls in] England, another seven or eight from the rest of Europe and the rest I made up from America so it's a good sampling of what everybody wanted in all the continents."[2] The first shows of the tour held in March 1990 in Canada were performed before any telephone polls were completed, leading Bowie to guess at the list of songs the audience wanted to hear.[12]

In the US, the songs "Fame", "Let's Dance" and "Changes" topped the list of songs requested by fans, while in Europe the songs "Heroes" and "Blue Jean" were the leaders.[5]

The NME, in response to the telephone poll, ran a spoof campaign, Just Say Gnome, in an effort to have "The Laughing Gnome" included in the set-lists.[2][13] Bowie had considered playing "The Laughing Gnome" "in the style of The Velvets or something" until he found out the voting had been perpetrated by the music magazine.[2]

Set design

Édouard Lock (of La La La Human Steps) co-conceived and was artistic director for this tour.[9] Bowie had originally wanted La La La Human Steps to be involved in his previous Glass Spider Tour, but was unable to secure them due to scheduling conflicts.[2][3] Given the unfavorable attention that his previous solo tour drew, Bowie was keen to make sure the Sound+Vision Tour did things differently. He said:

It will be staged; there is no way I could ever consider really putting something on the stage that doesn't owe something to theatah (pronouncing 'theatre' in a thick British accent), but it won't be overtly theatre in as much as it won't be propped the same way. Going back to the way we worked towards the Station to Station show, which was basically a question of using a kind of Brechtian lighting pad and working areas and atmospheres of light, is very much the kind of feel it will have.[3]

— March 1990

He added that this tour is "nowhere near as ambitious as Glass Spider in size, but qualitatively, in essence, I think it's as theatrical."[8]

In addition to the stark lighting and the backing 4-piece rock band, Bowie employed a new tool for this tour: a giant sixty-by-forty foot transparent gauze scrim.[12] The scrim would occasionally be lowered in front of or behind Bowie,[2] onto which images of Bowie and videos were projected.[5][6][9] Bowie described it as being "like a giant Javanese shadow puppet show at times."[2] Two large, round screens at each side of the stage also displayed the videos projected on the scrim.[12]

The set was constructed by 80 workers who traveled with the tour, with the help of local workers who were hired in each city. A single set took 8 trucks to move (with an additional 4 buses for the workers), and required 9 hours to set up and 4 hours to load out each night.[14]

Video recordings of La La La Human Steps' Louise Lecavalier performing dances in time to the music and images of Bowie singing, playing instruments, miming or otherwise performing to certain songs were projected on the scrim & screens during the show.[2][3] For some dates, such as the performance in Montreal on 6 March 1990, some of the dancers from La La La Human Steps danced live on stage to some of the songs.[12] Bowie was enthusiastic about the inclusion of the dancers on the tour: "You've never seen anything like them before. They're probably the leading avant-garde dance troupe in North America. Louise Lecavalier, their star, is like nothing else you've ever seen on stage. She's absolutely phenomenal. ... The dance troupe is unbelievable. It's where punk and ballet clash with each other."[15]

Live recordings

Bowie wanted to record the concert, something he hadn't always done before. He stated:

We're intending to film it for posterity; I should hope so. I've always regretted not having filmed things like the "Diamond Dogs" show. We never filmed the "Station to Station" show. Or the "soul" show with Dave Sanborn and those guys. I have absolutely no footage of those things. It's terrible. ... It's infuriating.[9]

— May 1990

Despite this, no official recording of the show has been made available to the public in either audio or video form. A number of performances were filmed and recorded for television and radio broadcasts:

Recording date Location Broadcast by
16 May 1990 Tokyo Dome
5 August 1990 Milton Keynes Bowl BBC Radio 1
14 September 1990 Estádio José Alvalade RTP1
20 September 1990 Sambodromo de Rio – Rio de Janeiro Rede Globo
23 September 1990 Estadio de PalmeirasSão Paulo Radio Transamérica
27 September 1990 Rock in Chile Festival – Estadio Nacional de Chile

Contemporary reception and reviews

Rolling Stone described the 1990 summer concert season "a concert season to remember", and included the Sound+Vision Tour as one of its highlights. They said "Louise Lecavalier of Montreal's La La La Human Steps dance troupe provides avant-garde acrobatics, and several [musical] numbers are graced by stunning short films, including a clip for "Ashes to Ashes" that has to be seen to be believed. Otherwise, there are no pyrotechnics, no laser beams and, best of all, no glass spiders,"[6] the last a reference to Bowie's ill-received previous world tour. A review of an early show by Rolling Stone was positive, saying "Bowie proved able to reclaim virtually his entire diverse oeuvre – even those songs that now seem furthest from him – through sheer vocal power and charisma" and complaining only that "the band wasn't always equal to the challenge, demonstrating too much respect for the songs' recorded arrangements."[12] A review of the show's stop in Vancouver, BC said "Bowie hasn't sounded this good in years", praising the tour's focus on not only the songs, but on Bowie himself,[16] and a review of the show in Seattle, WA called the visuals "a knockout" and praised Bowie as an innovator, only complaining that the music itself seemed "mechanical."[17]

Some shows on the North American tour did not sell out (such as in Seattle and some dates in Florida), but overall the tour was well-attended, selling out shows (often over multiple nights) in cities such as San Francisco, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Detroit.[18]

The UK show at Milton Keynes Bowl was reviewed negatively by Melody Maker magazine, who called parts of the performance "flat" and dismissed the song "Pretty Pink Rose" as "a tall heap of shite."[19]

Tour incidents

Mid-tour, Bowie, Erdal Kızılçay and guitarist Adrian Belew joined blues artist Buddy Guy in Chicago for a performance at the NAMM Expo '90, which celebrated Guy.[20]

A month later in Philadelphia, Bowie stopped his performance in the middle of the song "Young Americans" to speak out against music censorship, specifically due to the controversy over 2 Live Crew's album As Nasty As They Wanna Be, saying "I've been listening to the album by 2 Live Crew. It's not the best album that's ever been made, but when I heard they banned it, I went out and bought it. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech – it's one of the most important things we have."[21]

Tour statistics

The tour opened at the Colisée de QuébecQuebec City[3] on 4 March 1990 before reaching its conclusion in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 29 September 1990, spanning five continents in seven months.[2][4] The concert tour surpassed the previous Serious Moonlight and Glass Spider Tour's statistics by visiting 27 countries with 108 performances. For the ten performances in the United Kingdom alone it was estimated the audience figure was 250,000[22] in total. The tour was estimated to have grossed $20M[23] (or roughly $36M today, adjusted for inflation).[24]

Tour legacy

Bowie felt that a burden had been lifted by retiring the old hits he felt he was forced to perform, and said:

[Retiring my old hits on tour] was a very selfish thing to do, but it gave me an immense sense of freedom, to feel that I couldn't rely on any of those things. It's like I'm approaching it all from the ground up now, starting with 'Okay, we know what songs we needn't do anymore. What, of my past, did I really like?' You pick things that were really good songs, and you try to recontextualize them, by giving them current, contemporary rhythms. And we've been knocking around ideas like 'Shopping for Girls' from Tin Machine, 'Repetition' and 'Quicksand' from Hunky Dory. Certain songs that I probably haven't ever performed onstage. They're working shoulder to shoulder with the new material, and I'm starting to see continuity in the way that I work.[25]

— March 1997

Despite the tour's premise, several songs from the setlist would be subsequently revived in Bowie's following tours, particularly those for the promotion of albums Heathen (2002) and Reality (2003), which turned out to be his final solo tours.

After the tour, Bowie returned to his band Tin Machine for their second album.

Tour band

Bowie specifically chose a smaller band for the tour, stating in 1990 that:

It's a much smaller sound. It's not quite as orchestrated as any of the other tours. The plus of that is that there is a certain kind of drive and tightness that you get with that embryonic line-up, where everybody is totally reliant on the other two or three guys, so everybody gives a lot more.[8]

Tour dates

Date City Country Venue Tickets sold / azvailable Revenue
North America
4 March 1990 Quebec City Canada Colisée de Québec
6 March 1990 Montreal Montreal Forum
7 March 1990 Toronto Skydome
10 March 1990 Winnipeg Winnipeg Arena
12 March 1990 Edmonton Northlands Coliseum
13 March 1990 Calgary Olympic Saddledome
15 March 1990 Vancouver Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum
19 March 1990 Birmingham England National Exhibition Centre
20 March 1990
23 March 1990 Edinburgh Scotland Royal Highland Exhibition Centre
24 March 1990
26 March 1990 London England Docklands Arena
27 March 1990
28 March 1990
30 March 1990 Rotterdam Netherlands Sportpaleis Ahoy
1 April 1990 Dortmund Germany (Re-scheduled) Westfalenhalle
2 April 1990 Paris France Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
3 April 1990
5 April 1990 Frankfurt Germany Festhalle
7 April 1990 Hamburg Sporthalle
8 April 1990 Berlin Deutschlandhalle
10 April 1990 Munich Olympiahalle
11 April 1990 Stuttgart Schleyerhalle
13 April 1990 Milan Italy Palatrussardi
14 April 1990
17 April 1990 Rome PalaEur
18 April 1990 (Cancelled) Palaeur
20 April 1990 Brussels Belgium Vorst Forest Nationaal
21 April 1990
22 April 1990 Dortmund Germany Westfalenhalle
North America
27 April 1990 Miami United States Miami Arena 13,121 / 13,121 $338,388
29 April 1990 Pensacola, Florida Pensacola Civic Center
1 May 1990 Orlando, Florida Orlando Arena
4 May 1990 St. Petersburg, Florida Florida Suncoast Dome
5 May 1990 Jacksonville, Florida Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum
7 May 1990 Atlanta Omni Coliseum 10,912 / 12,781 $257,500
9 May 1990 Chapel Hill, North Carolina Dean Smith Center
15 May 1990 Tokyo Japan Tokyo Dome
16 May 1990
North America
20 May 1990 Vancouver Canada BC Place Stadium
21 May 1990 Tacoma, Washington United States Tacoma Dome
23 May 1990 Los Angeles Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena 12,756 / 12,756 $356,991
24 May 1990 Sacramento, California Cal Expo 13,961 / 13,961 $384,165
26 May 1990 Los Angeles Dodger Stadium 40,877 / 47,000 $1,117,086
28 May 1990 Mountain View, California Shoreline Amphitheatre 35,207 / 35,207 $862,515
29 May 1990
1 June 1990 Denver McNichols Sports Arena
2 June 1990
4 June 1990 Dallas Starplex Amphitheater 11,538 / 20,000 $276,167
6 June 1990 Austin, Texas Frank Erwin Center
7 June 1990 Houston Woodlands Pavilion 9,481 / 10,000 $215,877
9 June 1990 Kansas City, Missouri Sandstone Amphitheater
10 June 1990 St. Louis, Missouri St. Louis Arena 8,975 / 18,000 $235,175
12 June 1990 Noblesville, Indiana Deer Creek Music Center
13 June 1990 Milwaukee Marcus Amphitheater
15 June 1990 Chicago World Music Amphitheater
16 June 1990
19 June 1990 Cleveland, Ohio Richfield Coliseum 26,319 / 26,319 $657,975
20 June 1990
22 June 1990 Auburn Hills, Michigan The Palace of Auburn Hills 39,225 / 39,900 $980,625
24 June 1990
25 June 1990
27 June 1990 Burgettstown, Pennsylvania Starlake Amphitheater
30 June 1990 St. John's, Newfoundland Canada Memorial Stadium
2 July 1990 Moncton, New Brunswick Moncton Coliseum
4 July 1990 Toronto Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
6 July 1990 Ottawa Ottawa Civic Centre
7 July 1990 Saratoga Springs, New York United States Saratoga Performing Arts Center
9 July 1990 Philadelphia The Spectrum
10 July 1990
12 July 1990
13 July 1990
16 July 1990 Uniondale, New York Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
18 July 1990 Columbia, Maryland Merriweather Post Pavilion
19 July 1990
21 July 1990 Foxborough, Massachusetts Sullivan Stadium
23 July 1990 Hartford, Connecticut Hartford Civic Center 12,760 / 12,760 $273,063
25 July 1990 Niagara Falls, New York Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center
29 July 1990 East Rutherford, New Jersey Giants Stadium
4 August 1990 Milton Keynes England Milton Keynes Bowl
5 August 1990
7 August 1990 Manchester Maine Road Football Ground
9 August 1990 Dublin Ireland Point Depot
10 August 1990
13 August 1990 Fréjus France Les Arènes
16 August 1990 Ghent Belgium Flanders Expo
18 August 1990 Nijmegen Netherlands Stadion de Goffert
19 August 1990 Maastricht Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Centre
22 August 1990 Oslo Norway Jordal Stadion
24 August 1990 Stockholm Sweden Olympiastadion
25 August 1990 Copenhagen Denmark Idraetsparken
26 August 1990
29 August 1990 Linz Austria Linzer Stadion
31 August 1990 Berlin Germany Weißensee Sportplatz
1 September 1990 Schüttorf Festival Site
2 September 1990 Ulm Open Air Festival
4 September 1990 Budapest Hungary MTK Stadium
5 September 1990 Zagreb Yugoslavia Stadion Maksimir
8 September 1990 Modena Italy Festa de l'Unità
11 September 1990 Gijón Spain Hipódromo de las Mestas
12 September 1990 Madrid Rockodromo Arena
14 September 1990 Lisbon Portugal Alvalade Stadium
16 September 1990 Barcelona Spain Estadio Olímpico de Montjuic
South America
20 September 1990 Rio de Janeiro Brazil Apoteose Square Hall
22 September 1990 São Paulo Palestra Itália Stadium
23 September 1990
25 September 1990 Olímpia Theatre
27 September 1990 Santiago Chile Rock in Chile Festival -
Estadio Nacional de Chile
29 September 1990 Buenos Aires Argentina River Plate Stadium



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