We Love David Bowie @ BFI Southbank

"Crack, baby, crack, show me you're real
Smack, baby, smack, is that all that you feel?"


London is living and breathing David Bowie.
V & A's exhibition has obviously sparked major media attention (a really long queue waited patiently on the opening night), reheating the public's affair with the iconic sonic oddity. Then, there's The Next Day, his first album in a decade that freshly hit the bin, much awaited and critically lauded.
In that Bowie-heavy atmosphere came this year's Gay & Lesbian Film Festival to examine his significance as a queer icon, under the stage guidance of writer Rupert Smith.
Characteristically entertaining and chirpy, Smith made his grand entrance by copying Ziggy's mime act, as it would later appear (much upgraded - though our host claimed that it was actually Bowie who struggled to reach his level of expertise) as part of D.A. Pennebaker's Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars documentary. BBC4 in fact played the above film on repeat a few months ago; but it was the event as a whole that made the difference - and who has ever shunned the big screen if they can afford it?

Smith's projection involved iconic photos and rare newspaper cuts of Bowie's ambiguous "I'm bisexual" interviews, followed by insightful and humorous commentary. I had no idea his so-called bisexuality could've been all talk and no action, a very successful public stunt, as it appears. Some of his closest affairs are indeed in question (not that you can ever be too sure about what goes on behind closed doors - did, or didn't Bowie have an affair with his drag queen friend? His mate Lou Reed was apparently much more serious about it all...). Bowie was struggling for media attention and mainstream hits; and it seems like nothing back then was as hot as his sexual identity, which finally did the trick. Until, at least, he decided to straighten up his act and join Jagger in freaky dances (...in the street), which eventually made him hot even in the toughest of music cookies, the U.S.
The highlight of the night was, unquestionably, the rockumentary itself, screaming the main man's knack for interpretation and stage antics (mimicry included). Seeing Ziggy... for the third time in the last few months, I couldn't help but gasp in awe of Bowie's alien ability to bring some of the best songs in rock 'n' roll to life - Moonage Daydream, Space Oddity, Cracked Actor, and my absolute favourite, Time, thanks to a couple of theatrically provocative lyrics:
 "Time - He flexes like a whore / Falls wanking to the floor..", which he delivers in all its perfection.
And then, there are guitarists like Mick Ronson, who excels on this last Hammersmith Odeon gig, a wonder of a player on Ziggy's side whose role shouldn't be underestimated. His lengthy solo on Moonage Dream is out of this world - especially when, as it turned out, he was one of the very few people in Bowie's circle to have heard about the impending death of Ziggy. When Stardust took everyone else by surprise, announcing his plans on stage, the crowd's shock transformed into one big simultaneous shriek.
Inevitably, my big question then was why did this new kind of audience gather at the BFI? A sea of people that might look hooked on Bowie - but is all this really a media-imposed consequence? Was it his much-talked about significance in pop culture that had everybody convinced they should attend? I was one of the very few shaking and swinging in my chair, stressing the beat and playing air guitar in synch with Ronson. It was sad to see everyone cared in theory but not in practice. Or was it the theatre itself that barred the audience from expressing itself (I highly doubt it)?
Things got a bit warmer in the We Love Bowie after party in BFI's Blue Room. A few people queued to get the characteristic Aladdin Sane coloured thunder painted on their faces. A few others put on the appropriate glamour rock look (including myself - but then, I hardly ever stray from it...); and a lot of us danced, video projections dressing the wall with some of Bowie's best videos. The art gallery surroundings of the Blue Room brought a certain high brow "it" to the party - which was a bad thing. I can't lie, I would've preferred something a little more decadent, with the kind of people that would've shaken it a little more in their chairs earlier on, probably...
If we want Bowie's legacy to continue as it deserves, shouldn't it be us flexing it (like whores, or not, I don't know...) a bit more?
Fall rocking to the floor?

 Soundbite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwdmZ8yUvqw&list=PL1BD01A54FC675EE5

Text by Danai Molocha; pics stolen by the BFI website and the web.

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