Serious Moonlight Tour

Serious Moonlight Tour
Tour by David Bowie
David Bowie Serious Moonlight Tour 1983.jpg
Associated albumLet's Dance
Start date18 May 1983
End date8 December 1983
No. of shows96
David Bowie concert chronology

The Serious Moonlight Tour was launched in May 1983 in support of David Bowie's album Let's Dance (1983). The tour opened at the Vorst Forest Nationaal, Brussels, on 18 May 1983 and ended in the Hong Kong Coliseum on 8 December 1983; 15 countries visited, 96 performances,[1] and over 2.6M tickets sold.[2] The tour garnered mostly favorable reviews from the press.[3] It was, at the time, his longest, largest and most successful concert tour to date, although it has since been surpassed in length, attendance and gross revenue by subsequent Bowie tours.


The tour, designed to support Bowie's latest album Let's Dance, was initially designed to be a smaller tour, playing to the likes of sub-10,000-seat indoor venues around the world, similar to previous Bowie tours. However, the success of Let's Dance caused unexpectedly high demand for tickets: there were 250,000 requests for 44,000 tickets at one show, for example, and as a result the tour was changed to instead play in a variety of larger outdoor and festival-style venues. The largest crowd for a single show during the tour was 80,000 in Auckland, New Zealand, while the largest crowd for a festival date was 300,000 at the US 83 Festival in California. The tour sold out at every venue it played.[1]

Set design

Bowie himself had a hand in the set design for the tour, which included giant columns (affectionately referred to as "condoms") as well as a large moon and a giant hand.[4] The stage was deliberately given a vertical feeling (especially due to the columns) and an overall design that Bowie called a combination of classicism and modernism. The weight of one set (of which there were two) was 32 tons.[1]

Tour musicians

Earl Slick November 1983 during the Serious Moonlight Tour

Bowie hired mostly musicians he'd used on his previous albums,[1] though some of the musicians from his 1978 tour were re-hired for this tour, including Carlos Alomar, who was the designated band leader for the tour.[4] Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had contributed guitar solos to six of the songs on Let's Dance and who was up and coming, was to join the tour, also to please the American audience.[5] Vaughan showed up for rehearsals in Dallas in April (soundboard tapes from the rehearsals exist),[6][7] but Vaughan showed up with a cocaine habit, a hard-partying wife and an entourage looking for easy access to drugs.[8] Given that Bowie himself had moved to Berlin in the late 1970s to try and kick his own cocaine habit,[9][10] Bowie and Vaughan's management failed to come to an agreement on how to temper the situation, and in the end Vaughan pulled out of the tour.[5] Vaughan was replaced by longtime Bowie guitarist Earl Slick.[11]

Song selection

Faced with high demand for tickets for the tour, Bowie decided to play his more recognizable songs from his repertoire, saying a few years later that his goal was to give the fans the songs that they'd heard on the radio over the past 15 years, calling the setlist a collection of songs that the fans "probably didn't realize when added up are a great body of work".[12] Bowie and Carlos Alomar selected an initial list of songs for the tour, 35 of which they rehearsed for the tour.[1] One song that was on the rehearsal's song list that never actually got to the rehearsal stage was "Across the Universe", which Bowie had covered in 1975 on his Young Americans album.[3] The setlist for the tour was the basis for the track list for the 1989 box set Sound + Vision.[13]

Tour rehearsals

Initially the band rehearsed in a studio in Manhattan[1] before moving near Dallas for dress rehearsals.[3]

Each band member wore a costume which was designed "down to the smallest detail", as if a character in a play.[14] Two sets of each person's costumes were made and worn on alternate nights, and everyone got to keep one set at the conclusion of the tour as a souvenir.[3] The bands' costumes were a nod, a "slight parody", on all the New Romantic bands that were growing in popularity at the time.[1]

Tour performances

David Bowie on stage during the 1983 tour

To counteract counterfeiting, tickets and backstage passes were printed with small flaws that casual observers would not notice, but tour staff and security were trained to spot.[1]

On 30 June 1983, the performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in London was a charity show for the Brixton Neighbourhood Community Association in the presence of Princess Michael of Kent. The 13 July 1983 Montreal Forum performance was recorded and broadcast on American FM radio and other radio stations worldwide. The concert on 12 September in Vancouver was recorded for the concert video Serious Moonlight, that was released in 1984 and on DVD in 2006.

At the Canadian National Exhibition Stadium performance on 4 September 1983 in Toronto, Bowie introduced special guest Mick Ronson, who borrowed Earl Slick's guitar and performed "The Jean Genie" with Bowie and band. Mick had only been asked to play the day before, and he later recalled:

I was playing Slick's guitar ... I had heard Slick play solos all night so I decided not to play solos and I just went out and thrashed the guitar. I really thrashed the guitar, I was waving the guitar above my head and all sorts of things. It was funny afterwards because David said, 'You should have seen [Earl Slick's] face...' meaning he looked petrified. I had his prize guitar and I was swinging it around my head and Slick's going 'Waaaa... watch my guitar', you know. I was banging into it and it was going round my head. Poor Slick. I mean, I didn't know it was his special guitar, I just thought it was a guitar, a lump of wood with six strings.[3]

The last show of the tour (8 December 1983) was the third anniversary of John Lennon's death, whom Bowie and Slick had previously worked with in the studio. Slick suggested to Bowie a few days prior to the show that they play "Across the Universe" as a tribute; but Bowie said, "Well if we're going to do it, we might as well do 'Imagine'." They rehearsed the song a couple of times on 5 December (in Bangkok) and then performed the song on the final night of the tour as a tribute to their friend.[3]


The tour was a high point of commercial success for Bowie, who found his new popularity perplexing. Bowie would later remark that with the success of Let's Dance and the Serious Moonlight Tour, he had lost track of who his fans were or what they wanted.[15] One critic would later call this tour his "most accessible" because "it had few props and one costume change, from peach suit to blue."[16]

Bowie later specifically tried to avoid repeating the formula for success from his Serious Moonlight Tour with his 1987 Glass Spider Tour.[17]

The 26 November show in Auckland became – at the time – the most attended concert in the Southern Hemisphere with over 80,000 people in attendance.[18]


This is the setlist from the performance of Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 12 September 1983.

  1. "Look Back in Anger"
  2. ""Heroes""
  3. "What in the World"
  4. "Golden Years"
  5. "Fashion"
  6. "Let's Dance"
  7. "Breaking Glass"
  8. "Life on Mars?"
  9. "Sorrow"
  10. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"
  11. "China Girl"
  12. "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)"
  13. "Rebel Rebel"
  14. "White Light/White Heat"
  15. "Station to Station"
  16. "Cracked Actor"
  17. "Ashes to Ashes"
  18. "Space Oddity"
  19. "Young Americans"
  20. "Fame"
  21. "TVC 15"


  1. "Star"
  2. "Stay"
  3. "The Jean Genie"

Encore 2:

  1. "Modern Love"


Tour dates

Date City Country Venue Attendance (approx)
18 May 1983 Brussels Belgium Vorst Forest Nationaal
19 May 1983
20 May 1983 Frankfurt West Germany Festhalle
21 May 1983 Munich Olympiahalle
22 May 1983
24 May 1983 Lyon France Palais des Sports de Gerland
25 May 1983
26 May 1983 Fréjus Les Arènes
27 May 1983
29 May 1983 Nantes (Cancelled) Le Beaujoire
North America
30 May 1983 San Bernardino, California United States US Festival
Glen Helen Regional Park
2 June 1983 London England Wembley Arena
3 June 1983
4 June 1983
5 June 1983 Birmingham National Exhibition Centre
6 June 1983
8 June 1983 Paris France Hippodrome D'Auteuil 120,000[1]
9 June 1983
11 June 1983 Gothenburg Sweden Ullevi Stadium 58,000-60,000[1]
12 June 1983
15 June 1983 Bochum West Germany Ruhrstadion
17 June 1983 Bad Segeberg Freilichtbühne
18 June 1983
20 June 1983 West Berlin Waldbühne
24 June 1983 Offenbach am Main Bieberer Berg Stadion
25 June 1983 Rotterdam Netherlands Stadion Feijenoord
26 June 1983
28 June 1983 Edinburgh Scotland Murrayfield Stadium 47,444[1]
30 June 1983 London England Hammersmith Odeon 2,120[1]
1 July 1983 Milton Keynes National Bowl 174,984 (over all 3 nights)[1]
2 July 1983
3 July 1983
North America
11 July 1983 Quebec City, Quebec Canada Colisée de Québec 14,400[1]
12 July 1983 Montreal Montreal Forum
13 July 1983
15 July 1983 Hartford, Connecticut United States Hartford Civic Center
16 July 1983
18 July 1983 Philadelphia The Spectrum
19 July 1983
20 July 1983
21 July 1983
23 July 1983 Syracuse, New York (Re-scheduled)Carrier Dome
25 July 1983 New York City Madison Square Garden
26 July 1983
27 July 1983
29 July 1983 Richfield, Ohio Richfield Coliseum
30 July 1983 Detroit, Michigan Joe Louis Arena
31 July 1983
1 August 1983 Rosemont, Illinois Rosemont Horizon
2 August 1983
3 August 1983
7 August 1983 Edmonton, Alberta Canada Commonwealth Stadium
9 August 1983 Vancouver BC Place
11 August 1983 Tacoma, Washington United States Tacoma Dome
14 August 1983 Los Angeles The Forum
15 August 1983
17 August 1983 Phoenix, Arizona Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum
19 August 1983 Dallas, Texas Reunion Arena
20 August 1983 Austin, Texas Frank Erwin Center
21 August 1983 Houston, Texas The Summit
24 August 1983 Norfolk, Virginia Scope Cultural and Convention Center 21,370[1]
25 August 1983
27 August 1983 Landover, Maryland Capital Centre 29,371[1]
28 August 1983
29 August 1983 Hershey, Pennsylvania Hersheypark Stadium 25,230[1]
31 August 1983 Foxborough, Massachusetts Sullivan Stadium 60,000[1]
3 September 1983 Toronto Canada Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
4 September 1983
5 September 1983 Buffalo, New York United States Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
6 September 1983 Syracuse, New York Carrier Dome
9 September 1983 Anaheim, California Anaheim Stadium
11 September 1983 Vancouver Canada Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum
12 September 1983
14 September 1983 Winnipeg Winnipeg Stadium
17 September 1983 Oakland, California United States Oakland Alameda Coliseum 57,920[1]
20 October 1983 Tokyo Japan Nippon Budokan 12,000[1]
21 October 1983
22 October 1983
24 October 1983
25 October 1983 Yokohama Yokohama Stadium
26 October 1983 Osaka Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium
27 October 1983
29 October 1983 Nagoya Kokusai Tenji Kaikan
30 October 1983 Osaka Expo Commemoration Park
31 October 1983 Kyoto Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium
4 November 1983 Perth Australia Perth Entertainment Centre
5 November 1983
6 November 1983
9 November 1983 Adelaide Adelaide Oval
12 November 1983 Melbourne VFL Park
16 November 1983 Brisbane Lang Park
19 November 1983 Sydney RAS Showgrounds
20 November 1983 25,000[1]
24 November 1983 Wellington New Zealand Athletic Park 50,000[1]
26 November 1983 Auckland Western Springs Stadium 80,000-90,000[1]
3 December 1983 Singapore Singapore National Stadium
5 December 1983 Bangkok Thailand Thai Army Sports Stadium 9000[19]
7 December 1983 Hung Hom, Kowloon Hong Kong Hong Kong Coliseum
8 December 1983

Song list


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Flippo, Chet (1984). David Bowie's Serious Moonlight : The World Tour. Doubleday & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-385-19265-1.
  2. ^ Pimm Jal de la Parra, David Bowie: The Concert Tapes, P.J. Publishing, 1985, ISBN 90-900100-5-X
  3. ^ a b c d e f David Currie, ed. (1985), David Bowie: The Starzone Interviews, England: Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-0-7119-0685-3
  4. ^ a b Edwards, Henry; Zanetta, Tony (1986), Stardust: The David Bowie Story, 1986, ISBN 978-0-07-072797-7
  5. ^ a b Gregory, Hugh (2003). Roadhouse Blues: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas R&B. Backbeat. pp. 75–76. ISBN 9780879307479.
  6. ^ Scapeletti, Christopher (11 January 2016). "Hear David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1983 Rehearsal". Guitar Player. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Soundboard Recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1983 Rehearsal with David Bowie in Dallas Texas". Forgotten Guitar. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  8. ^ Barres, Pamela Des (1996). Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon. St. Martin's Press. p. 259. ISBN 9780312148539.
  9. ^ Mastropolo, Frank (11 January 2016). "The History of David Bowie's Berlin Trilogy: 'Low,' 'Heroes' and 'Lodger'". Ultimate Classic rock.
  10. ^ Wilcken, Hugo (2005). Low. New York: Continuum. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-8264-1684-1.
  11. ^ Nicholas Pegg, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2004, ISBN 1-903111-73-0
  12. ^ Morse, Steve (July–August 1987), "David Bowie (Cover Story)", In Fashion Magazine, 3 (10): 151, 153
  13. ^ Rougvie, Jeff (15 November 2015). "It Was 26+ Years Ago Today Part 3 & Maybe 4 & 5, too". JEFF ROUGVIE HUB. Retrieved 15 March 2019 – via Squarespace.
  14. ^ "In Which It Is Neither The Plane Nor The Pilot - Home - This Recording".
  15. ^ Pond, Steve (March 1997), "Beyond Bowie", Live! Magazine: 38–41, 93
  16. ^ Cohen, Scott (September 1991), "From Ziggy Stardust to Tin Machine: David Bowie Comes Clean", Details magazine: 86–97
  17. ^ Graff, Gary (18 September 1987), "Bowie Is Back, And Bolder Than Ever His Controversial Glass Spider Tour Proves The Ageless Rocker Is Still Full Of Surprises", The Orlando Sentinel, retrieved 28 May 2013
  18. ^ "Billboard Magazine" (PDF). 28 January 1984. p. 7. Retrieved 14 December 2016. David Bowie's 'Serious Moonlight' Tour of Australia and New Zealand ` .. eclipsed all previous concert attendance records Down Under. More the 80,000 people attended the final Australasian concert in Auckland. That's the single biggest concert ever in the Southern Hemisphere. 1nact, the audience outnumbered the fifth largest city -in New Zealand.
  19. ^


  • David Buckley, Strange Fascination: The Definitive Biography of David Bowie, Virgin Books, 1999, ISBN 1-85227-784-X

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